Oconee County Finance Director Wes Geddings has presented the Board of Commissioners a $26.9 million General Fund budget for Fiscal Year 2018, which will be before the public for review on Tuesday.
Geddings told the commissioners he has not yet made his final revenue projections but he is “confident we have the revenue stream to support the expenditure request” without increasing the county’s millage rate.
The budget includes a $1,200 across-the-board salary increase for each of the county’s 262 full-time employees and an additional adjustment that will represent a 7 percent increase for those in Animal Control, the Fire Department, and the Sheriff’s Office.
The budget includes an 8 percent increase in health insurance costs.
The budget adds funding for only one new full-time position in the county, in the Parks and Recreation Department.
Geddings gave his overview of the budget to a called meeting of the Board of Commissioners on May 11 and will provide a more formal presentation at 6:30 Tuesday in the Courthouse in Watkinsville in the first hearing on the budget with the general public.
Utililty Department Budget
The budget presented to the Commission at the called meeting on May 11 was the work of Geddings, Board of Commissioners Chairman John Daniell, and County Administrator Jeff Benko.
The General Fund is roughly half of the total budget for the county, with the Utility Department budget and the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax budget making up the bulk of the remainder.
The final budget piece is the Special Funds budget, funded by street light fees, the county hotel tax, grants and other sources.
Geddings said the Utility Department budget for the fiscal year starting on July 1 will be $9.6 million.
The Utility Department operates as an Enterprise Fund, meaning it covers its operating costs with the revenue it generates.
Geddings also listed $11,056,794 in spending from the county’s SPLOST funds for Fiscal Year 2018.
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Included is $2 million for a new Fire Station #8 to replace the existing Barber Creek station on the Oconee Connector between Daniells Bridge Road and SR 316.
The SPLOST budget also includes $2 million for completion of the multi-purpose fields at Oconee Veterans Park.
The Utililty Department will get $1.7 million for water and sewer projects, and the Public Works Department will get $1.6 million for road projects.
The SPLOST budget also includes $1.5 million for security renovations at the Courthouse.
Another $766,235 from SPLOST goes to retirement of the General Obligation Bond for purchase and construction of Oconee Veterans Park. That bond will not be retired until 2033.
The SPLOST budget includes $250,000 for the purchase of vehicles by the Sheriff’s Office.
The Utility Department budget is based on a 1.0 percent increase in the base water rate and a 1.5 percent increase for those who use just slightly more water per month.
Those who are heavier users actually will see a reduction in water rates, if the Board of Commissioners accepts the budget.
The base sewer rate would drop, but rates for those producing higher and more usual sewer flow would increase significantly.
The proposed increases for fiscal year 2017-2018 follow a year of no change in both water and sewer rates compared to a year earlier.
The Parks and Recreation Department budget includes fee increases across a variety of programs, with most youth sports programs and sports camps costing $5 more starting on July 1.
Animal Control is proposing to drop its adoption fee from $125 to $75.
Commission Chair Daniell told the other commissions on May 11 that the “numbers are still a little fluid” and there could be adjustments in the recommendations before the meeting on Tuesday night.
The proposed $26,941,884 General Fund budget for Fiscal Year 2017-2018 was in response to $27,835,244 in requests from the county’s departments and constitutional officers.
That means that department heads and constitutional officers were requesting an increase of 11.0 percent over the year before, and the budget Geddings presented recommends a 7.4 percent increase over the current General Fund budget of $25,084,716.
Administration got the biggest increase, of 42.3 percent, followed by a 33.5 percent increase for Community Development, and 20.0 percent increase for Information Technology.
The county rejuggled some of the assignments for administration, Daniell told me after the meeting on May 11, explaining the increase.
Community Development includes the bond payments for the Parkway Boulevard Extension and for the Caterpillar plant, Daniell said, and Information Technology includes purchased services.
The District Attorney had a flat budget, and Operations and the Coroner had budget decreases.
Public Works, Property Appraisal and Juvenile Court all got considerably below average increases.
The growth of the 2018 Fiscal Year budget by 7.4 percent over the 2017 Fiscal Year budget is higher than a year earlier, when the growth was 5.7 percent.
Budgets have increased around 5 percent each year since Fiscal Year 2013.
The 2012 and 2013 Fiscal Year Budgets actually were lower than the year before.
Fiscal Year budgets going back to 2012 are shown in the Chart above. Click on the chart to enlarge it.
The chart shown is a replacement for one used with the initial post.
That original chart used the actual spending for Fiscal Year 2016, rather than the budgeted amount, since the amended budget, rather than the actual budget, was shown on the information Geddings released at the May 11 meeting.
I went back to the budget presentations from previous years to more accurately reflect the changes in the budgets approved across the years.
Geddings told the Commissioners on May 11 that the budget included the $1,200 across the board salary increase for every full-time employee in lieu of a cost of living adjustment.
This will average out as a 2.8 percent increase, he said.
In addition, the county will offer a step increase in January that will average out as another 1.5 percent increase.
Turnover has been a problem in Public Safety, Geddings said, and, in response, the county is proposing a 7 percent salary increase in those areas.
Vehicles And Equipment
The General Fund budget includes capital expenditures for a bay truck in Animal Control, two trucks in fleet maintenance, a truck in Public Works, a sport utility vehicle for the Fire Department, and a van for the Senior Center.
Public Works will get a mini excavator, a new chipper, and new salt spreaders.
Law Enforcement will get radios from the General Fund and the $250,000 for sports utility vehicles from SPLOST funds. The expectation is that the $250,000 will be enough for eight vehicles.
The Enterprise Fund will use its own money for three trucks.
As in past year, Geddings is proposing to take some money from the Fund Balance to make up the difference between projected revenue and the budgeted $26,941,884 in expenditures.
Geddings said at the May 11 meeting he could not give a precise figure for how much he would take from the Fund Balance, pending final projections on revenue.
The June 30, 2016, audit of the county showed the county with $10.8 million in unassigned Fund Balance in the General Fund.
County Administrator Benko told the Commission at the May 11 meeting that some of the assigned money from the purchase of right of way for the Mars Hill Road and Experiment Station Road improvement could now be freed up because of reimbursements from the state.
The meeting on May 11 was open to the public, but I was the only person present who was not a county employee.
Commissioner Mark Thomas sent word he could not attend because of a work commitment.
The full video of the meeting is below.