Oconee County will see 4.2 percent growth in its General Fund budget for fiscal year 2019-2020, County Finance Director Wes Geddings told the Board of Commissioners at its budget hearing last week.
That compares with a 4.5 percent increase the year earlier and brings the total general fund budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 to $30.4 million.
Revenue is project to grow by 4.4 percent, including a 5.0 percent growth in income from the county’s property tax and a more modest 3.0 percent increase in income from the county’s sales tax.
The Water Resources Department, which is budgeted separately from the General Fund, is projected to have a decrease in its operating budget from $10.5 million in Fiscal Year 2019 to $10.1 million in Fiscal Year 2020, reflecting the more efficient operation of the Calls Creek Water Reclamation Facility.
Revenue for the Water Resources Department is expected to exceed expenditures.
Budget figures were preliminary, Geddings said, and he promised a final budget when the Board of Commissioners meets on Tuesday. Public hearings are scheduled for May 21 and June 4.
Before beginning the discussion of the budget requests of the various county departments, Geddings offered an overall assessment of the county’s financial status.
|Geddings Addressing Five Commissioners|
Daniell, Thomas, Horton, Wilkes, Saxon, (L-R)
“I just want to report,” Geddings said at the April 23 meeting, that the county is financially sound to date.”
The county’s Fund Balance, or savings, is $17,925,000, Geddings reported.
Geddings projected that spending in Fiscal Year 2020 would exceed revenue by $91,499.
The numbers will change as county puts together the final budget, Commission Chair John Daniell told the other commissioners at the end of Geddings’ presentation.
Geddings said that 40 percent of the budget is devoted to public safety.
Public Safety is funded in different categories in the budget.
The budget includes $3.0 million for the jail operations, up 3.1 percent from the current fiscal year.
The funding for the Sheriff’s Office is $4.1 million, up 5.8 percent.
Gedding said most of that cost was in personnel, reflecting stepped pay increases based on time in position.
Fire and Emergency Management Services is budgeted at just more than $1 million, and the Emergency Management Agency is budgeted at $150,985.
E911 is budgeted at $1.1 million.
Animal Services now falls in the Public Safety budget category, and its budget is to decline to $466,637 from $470,817 in the current budget.
That is a drop of a little less than 1 percentage point, and Geddings called the budget “basically flat.”
Geddings said that the capital projects are not included in the Animal Services budget he presented.
“Some of the capital requests that they requested are very eligible for the capital funds coming from the sales tax SPLOST dollars,” Geddings said.
The language of the 2015 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax designates a projected $750,000 for “Animal Control Facilities,” giving the Board much leeway in how it allocates those monies.
Other Large Expenditures
The budget includes $4 million for Public Works, up 7.0 percent from the current fiscal year.
The Parks and Recreation Department budget presented by Geddings is for $3.4 million, up 2.9 percent from the $3.3 million for Fiscal Year 2019.
Community Development, which includes Economic Development, Tourism and the Civic Center, is budgeted at $1.7 million, up 2.6 percent from the current budget.
The Economic Development expenditure is for debt service for the bond used to entice Caterpillar to located its plant in the county and for the construction of Parkway Boulevard extension, Geddings told Commissioner Chuck Horton.
After the hearing, Geddings provided me with projected revenue figures by department.
They show $16.1 million from the Tax Commissioner Office and $9.9 million from the Finance Office.
The latter includes the Local Option Sales Tax and other fees, Geddings said during the hearing.
The Parks and Recreation Department is budgeted to generate $1.4 million.
The Clerk of Courts revenue is projected at $0.7 million, and the same figure is listed for the Planning and Code Enforcement Department.
The video below is of the budget hearing on April 23, 2019.