Oconee County Finance Director Wes Geddings presented a $39.7 million budget to the public tonight that includes no increase in the county’s millage rate but does include a water rate increase of 1.5 percent and a sewer rate increase of 3 percent.
The budget is 8.7 percent greater than the current budget, and the extra revenue will come in part from an expected 6 to 10 percent increase in property values. Sales tax revenues also are projected to increase.
The increased property values mean that most individual property owners will pay more in taxes next year than this year, with the average increase in that 6 to 10 percent range. The tax digest, or assessment of county property, is not final.
The county could have reduced the millage rate to keep taxes from increasing but did not do so. The rate for the unincorporated parts of the county will be 6.686, while the county tax rate for property in the four cities will be 7.666.
Even with the increased revenue, Geddings plans to balance the budget by drawing $647,759 from the county’s reserve, called a fund balance.
Geddings presentation tonight was the first open discussion of the budget, which goes into effect on July 1. The Board of Commissioners will take final action on the budget at its meeting on June 2.
The budget includes a 3 percent increase in salaries for county employees, but Geddings said no decision has been made on how much of that would be cost of living adjustments and how much would be merit based.
The budget adds three full-time and six part-time employees. Two of the full-time employees are for the Sheriff’s Office and one is for an additional property appraiser.
The Parks and Recreation Department added three part-time employees. The Senior Center will add two part-time positions. The Civic Center will add one.
The budget also includes a $300,000 increase in health care costs.
Geddings presented his budget in a public hearing held in the half-hour before the regular Board of Commissioners meeting.
Geddings took up 25 minutes with his promotional and upbeat presentation, allowing only five minutes for citizen comment.
In the video clip below, he says the county is a great place to live and will continue to attract people because of that. He also says he has a way to spend additional revenue if his projection is conservative.
During the five minutes allowed for citizen comment, I asked for a clarification on the salary increase for employees and for the status of the fund balance.
Geddings said the fund balance was $9.1 million on June 30, 2014, and he thinks it is about the same today. He said he didn’t have an exact figure.
Sarah Bell applauded the BOC for not increasing the millage rate.
Water And Sewer Rates
Utility Department Director Chris Thomas had requested both a 3 percent water and a 3 percent sewer rate increases.
Water rates will increase for the eighth year in a row, and sewer rates for the seventh.
The Utility Department generates its revenue from its customers, rather than from all citizens in the county. Geddings did not explain how the decrease in funding will impact the department.
The county had released no information on the budget prior to the public hearing tonight.
County Administrative Officer Jeff Benko told me after the meeting that Geddings’ presentation of the budget will be on the county web site tomorrow.
Video Of Session
The full video of the half-hour session is below. The clip above is taken from this lengthier video.