The Oconee County Board of Commissioners tomorrow night is expected to adopt a fiscal year 2014 General Fund budget that is up 5.7 percent from a year earlier but $2.7 million less than department heads and constitutional officers had requested.
The overall county budget includes water and sewer rate increases, with residential water customers paying $19 for the first 1,000 gallons of water used, up 5.6 percent from the current $18, and residential sewer customers paying $21.32, up 4.0 percent from a year earlier.
The millage rate will remain flat as part of the proposed budget, and the county will transfer $655,471 from reserves to make the budget balance.
The commissioners will hold a second and final public hearing on the budget near the beginning of its meeting and take action following that opportunity for citizen comment. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the courthouse in Watkinsville.
Negotiations Behind The Scene
Department heads and constitutional officers made their requests for funding for fiscal year 2014 in a series of public meetings from March 18 to 20, but no public disclosure of the outcome of negotiations over those requests was made public until just before the BOC met and held its first public hearing on the budget last week.
Sheriff Scott Berry asked the commissioners in March to increase his budget for law enforcement by $1.3 million, or 43.8 percent, and to increase funding for the jail by $0.3 million, or 11.8 percent.
Rather than the $4,362,935 the sheriff requested for law enforcement, the budget to be acted on tomorrow night includes $3,418,195 for law enforcement, or an increase of 12.7 percent.
County Finance Director Wes Geddings told the BOC last Tuesday that the sheriff had decided to delay some of his requests, but that the budget included funding for three new deputies, down from five requested.
Rather than the $2,618,685 the sheriff requested for the jail, the budget provides $2,404,015, or an increase of 2.7 percent.
Utility Rates As Requested
The water and sewer rate increases in the budget are those requested by Utility Department Director Chris Thomas as part of his budget presentation in March.
Water rates increase with usage, and each 1,000 gallons of water above the minimum and up to 4,000 will cost $4.79, up 3.5 percent from at present. Each 1,000 gallons from 4,001 to 8,000 will cost $5.74, up 3.4 percent from today.
Residential sewer rates above the 2,000 gallon minimum will increase to $4.42 per 1,000, up 4.0 percent.
If the BOC approves these rate increases, the county will have increased its water rate each year since 2008. Sewer rate increases also have become an annual occurrence.
The rates will go into effect on July 1.
The budget before the commissioners calls for a 3 percent cost of living allowance for county employees, the first since fiscal year 2009, Geddings said. The budget also reflects a 12 percent increase in health care costs for those employees.
The total county budget, which consists of the General Fund Budget, the Utility Department budget, Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax intake and spending, and other special revenue funds is $36.3 million, down 0.3 percent from a year earlier.
The decrease in the overall budget reflects decreased spending on SPLOST projects.
Details of the budget are on the county web site.