The Oconee County Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing on the county’s proposed 2022 Fiscal Year Budget at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday before its agenda setting meeting.
County Finance Director Wes Geddings released spending requests and recommendations for the General Fund portion of the budget at the Commission’s May 4 meeting and promised to provide additional detail at the May 25 meeting.
The single sheet Gedding provided on May 4 recommended $32.6 million in General Fund spending for the Fiscal Year starting on July 1, down from $37.8 in the amended Fiscal Year 2021 budget.
Gedding said the revenue figures he will provide on May 25 will show a balanced budget.
Geddings did not mention the millage rate, and Board of Commissioners Chair John Daniell said on Thursday said the county is still analyzing the revenue numbers and has not made a decision on any changes to the millage rate.
Geddings did not present a fee schedule at the May 4 meeting, but Daniell provided the draft of that document on Monday.
That schedule shows a just less than 1 percent increase in residential water rates and 4.5 percent increase in residential sewer rates as well as increases in fees for county recreational programs.
Budget Requests And Recommendations
The proposed budget shows a drop in General Fund spending of 13.8 percent from the budgeted amount for the current fiscal year but an increase of 9.1 percent from the actual spending in Fiscal Year 2020, which ended June 30 of last year, or five months into the pandemic.
|Geddings Before Commission 5/4/2021|
The proposed 2022 budget is just $543,855 less than was requested by department heads.
The largest expenditures in the proposed budget are for public works, at $5.3 million, followed by Law Enforcement (Sheriff’s Office), at $4.4 million, Jail (Sheriff’s Office) at $3.4 million, and Parks and Recreation with $2.2 million.
Public Works, Law Enforcement, and Parks and Recreation are recommended to have a smaller budget than approved for Fiscal Year 2021 but larger amounts than the actual expenditures in 2020.
The proposed funding for the Jail is an increase of the amount budgeted for that operation in the current fiscal year and over actual expenditures in the 2020 Fiscal Year.
Nearly a third of the proposed budget (32.6 percent) is set aside for Law Enforcement, the Jail, and Public Safety, including Fire/Emergency Management Services, Emergency Management Agency, E911, and Animal Services.
Water And Sewer
The base residential water rate will increase from 15.48 for the first 1,000 gallons to $15.63, if the commissioners approve the fee schedule given to me by Daniell.
A "Super Conserver" discount of $3.24 will be applied for customers using less than 1,000 gallons in a billing cycle.
The rate per 1,000 gallons of water for 1,000 to 7,000 gallons will increase from $5.34 to $5.39.
The rate per 1,000 gallons of water from 7,001 gallons to 14,000 gallons will increase from $7.30 to $7.37.
The rate per 1,000 gallons of water from 14,001 and above will increase from $9.27 to $9.36.
Commercial water rates also will increase, with the base rate just less than a percent higher than at present.
The base residential sewer charge will increase from $16.10 to $16.82, and the rate per 1,000 gallons will go from $5.79 to $6.05.
Commercial rates also will increase 4.5 percent.
Water rates had increased by just less than 1 percent from Fiscal Year 2020 to Fiscal Year 2021, and sewer rates had increased by 4.5 percent.
Water Resources Budget
The total recommended budget for the Water Resources Department is $12,334,541, up from $11,010,243 in the current fiscal year and from $10,439,214 the year before, based on a preliminary document provided to me by Daniell.
The Water Resource Department is designed to be self-funded and is not part of the General Fund budget.
The Water Resources Department budget is divided into $2,863,501 for the wastewater operation, up from $2,298,449 in the current budget, and $9,471,040 for the water operation, up from $11,010,243 in the current budget.
Of the proposed budget for the Water budget, $3,465,211 is for debt on bonds, which is down from $4,020,000 in the current fiscal year budget.
Included is the debt for both the Bear Creek Reservoir and the Hard Labor Creek Reservoir. No water is being drawn from the Hard Labor Creek Reservoir.
The proposed fee schedule increases the costs of a number of sports programs to accommodate the school use fee being imposed by Oconee County Schools.
The Oconee County Board of Education voted to charge fees on use of sports facilities at county schools by the county’s Parks and Recreation Department in May of 2020, but it delayed implementation for the first year of the agreement.
Last year, Oconee County Parks and Recreation added a $10 surcharge on a number of programs to cover the fees charged by the schools.
The proposed 2022 fee schedule removes the surcharge and adds a $30 per person fee for youth basketball and tackle football and for high school intramural basketball.
The schedule adds a $5 fee per person for cheerleading and soccer that uses school facilities.
The proposal adds $30 fee per team for adult basketball.
Daniell told me in an email message Thursday that no decision has been made on the millage rate pending additional information on the tax digest, the valuation of property in the county.
“We are still analyzing the revenue numbers,” Daniell said. “The Board of Tax Assessors finalized the digest earlier this week.”
“The general fund expense number will have some adjustments based on final reviews being done,” he added.
The Board is scheduled to take final action on the Budget at its regular meeting at 6 p.m. on June 1 in the Commissioners Meeting Chambers at the Oconee County Courthouse in Watkinsville.
I did not attend the May 4 meeting of the Board of Commissioners but watched via Zoom.
Aaron Nowak did attend and recorded the video below for me.
Geddings began his presentation of the budget at 1:37:46 in the video.