Oconee County Finance Director Wes Geddings has presented the Board of Commissioners a 2019 Fiscal Year General Fund Budget proposal that reflects a 7.6 percent growth in spending over the current fiscal year.
The increase in expenditure is matched by a projected increase in revenue.
For the second year in a row, the budget is balanced without drawing on the county’s Fund Balance, or savings, and once again does not reflect any increase in the millage rate that determines property taxes.
The budget shows a drop in the basic residential water rate of 23.3 percent but an increase in the rates paid for water beyond the 1,000 gallons covered by the basic rate of 1.0 percent.
The basic residential sewer rate would decline by 17.8 percent, but rates for treatment of sewage beyond the 1,000 covered by the base rate would go up 4.5 percent.
Staff Salaries, Benefits
The budget proposal Geddings gave the Board includes a 1.25 percent step pay increase and a 2 percent Cost of Living Allowance, for a total salary increase of 3.25 percent.
|Geddings Before Commissioners|
The existing benefits package will be maintained as it is, Geddings said.
The county is absorbing a 10 percent increase in the cost of health care for county employees and retirees, Geddings told the Board.
The budget assumes that the number of county employees will be decreased from 265 to 261.
Geddings made his presentation on the 2019 Budget to the commissioners in a day-long session on April 18 in the Commission Chamber in the Courthouse in Watkinsville.
The General Fund Budget covers departments such as Planning and Code Enforcement, Parks and Recreation, and Public Works.
Funding for the Sheriff’s Office, operation of the jail, and the courts also is included in the General Fund Budget.
Not included are the expenditures for capital projects funded by the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.
Also not included in the General Fund Budget is the Water Resources Department, which is set up as an Enterprise Fund, meaning its generates its own revenue except for capital projects covered by SPLOST.
The General Fund makes up roughly half of the overall county budget.
The Board last year approved a General Fund Budget increase of 7.4 percent.
As part of the budget hearings, Geddings released the fee structure for the Water Resources Department, the Parks and Recreation Department, the Planning and Code Enforcement Department, and for other units of the county.
The cost to have a subdivision construction plan reviewed would go from a minimum of $350 to a minimum of $400.
Field rental at Herman C. Michael Park would go from $20 per hour to $35 per hour.
A household that uses less than 1,000 gallons per month of water would pay the base fee of $15.33 minus a supersaver discount of $3.09. If that household used 425 gallons during the month, it would pay an additional $2.22, for a total bill of $14.46.
At present, the base rate with the supersaver discount is $16.90.
Geddings said a difference in the way water used as part of the base rate is billed should result in the bill for customers using little water being basically unchanged from present.
The total recommended budget for the Water Resources Department presented by Geddings is $10,524,120.
That includes debt service totaling $1,215,537 for two bonds for construction of the Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir in Walton County.
Geddings told the Board that another $500,000 is being set aside each year for repayment of another loan from the state for the reservoir.
The Economic Development Department budget includes debt service of $697,313 for the bonds spent to bring Caterpillar to the area and $531,088 to service the bonds for construction of Parkway Boulevard to bring more commercial development to the Epps Bridge Parkway area.
The Economic Development Department also asked the county to provide $4 million to cover the costs of a new entrance to Gateway Technology Part on the edge of Bogart, but Geddings did not include that amount in the recommended budget.
Overall, county departments and offices asked for $35,099,988, but the recommendation is that only $28,993,264 be spent.
Geddings did tell the commissioners that the budget he presented is not the final one.
Changes are likely, he said, before the final budget is enacted by the Board before the end of the fiscal year on June 30.
I was not able to attend the budget hearing on April 18, but Penny Mills attended the morning session and Sarah Bell attended the afternoon session.
Mills and Bell made the video recording below.
Geddings began his comments on the budget at 0:39 in the video.