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Bulloch County fire fees might rise
Commissioners hear new budget proposal
740 4080 edit Tom Couch
Bulloch County Manager Tom Couch

    Bulloch County Manager Tom Couch made several recommendations to the county commissioners in the group’s first review of the proposed 2013 general appropriations budget.
    Among his suggestions on Tuesday, Couch recommended that the county hold off on hiring a fire chief, which would leave Capt. Christopher Ivey in charge, and hiring a training coordinator to assist him.
    Ivey stepped into the position earlier this year after Fire Chief Randy Walker resigned. Ivey was the Portal fire chief and worked as a county humane officer before taking the fire captain position.
    “Capt. Chris Ivey seems to be doing a pretty good job,” Couch told commissioners. “He is diligently monitoring the business end of it.”
    Waiting to hire a full-time fire chief would save the county money, Couch said.
    He also suggested slightly raising the county fire fees to offset rising costs. Another proposal for increasing revenues is to seek higher fees from Candler and Evans counties, which are served by the Bulloch County 911 department. The value of the service Bulloch County 911 provides to Candler and Evans exceeds what those counties pay, Couch said.
    While property tax collections are still uncertain, Couch said a “marginal economic improvement” may help boost those revenues. Efforts to tighten expenses will include reduction in overtime, adjustments to benefits and more aggressive collection efforts, he said.
    Several county positions will be restructured and transferred to reduce costs as well, he told commissioners. The internal reorganization will help lessen expenses while continuing the level of services, he said.
    Plans to make “significant investments in technology” in financial and payroll accounting, as well as fleet management, are also suggested.
    Projects included in the draft budget are construction of the tax administration annex, agricultural arena, improvements in jail safety and security, Bulloch County Correctional Institution enclosure and renovations, and energy and water retrofits, Couch said.
    Consideration also will be given to hiring a full-time assistant state court solicitor, which would help with the transfer of many cases from superior court to state court because of law changes, he said.
    Another issue under review is the future placement of an EMS station in the southern end of the county. Couch said that likely won’t happen in 2013 because of funds, but he has asked EMS Director Lee Eckles to look into how shifts can be rearranged to staff the station when constructed. Currently, budget constrictions won’t allow for station or additional staff.
    “We don’t have the money unless you want to raise taxes,” he told commissioners.
    However, commissioners are considering land acquisition possibilities for the future project, he said.
    Couch also suggested changes in operations at the Bulloch County Animal Shelter, to include bidding out veterinary services and reducing overtime through shift adjustments.
    The total estimated general appropriations budget is $61.4 million, broken down into $31.9 million for the general fund; $8.5 million for special revenue funds; $2.4 million for enterprise funds; $10.5 million for internal service funds; and $11.6 million for Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax  funds.
    Public hearings for the budget proposal, which will be available for review in its entirety, are 8:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. and at 6:30 p.m. at the Bulloch County Annex.
    Commissioners will convene a special called meeting at 8:30 a.m. June 26 order to adopt the budget.
    Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

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