While revenues are slightly up and the economy appears to be improving, Bulloch County commissioners are still making conservative budget decisions.
Commissioners won't raise taxes, but expenditures and costs will still be limited. Hopefully, the county will be able to begin rebuilding its fund balance in 2015, Bulloch County Manager Tom Couch said.
In a workshop held Tuesday before a public hearing about the proposed budget, Couch gave commissioners a presentation outlining recommendations and estimated figures.
Afterward, no one aside from county employees attended the hearing.
Couch said the estimated general appropriation budget for fiscal 2015 is $65.7 million, with $31.9 million specified for the general fund.
Special revenue funds are estimated at $8.6 million; enterprise funds at $2.3 million; internal service funds at $5 million; and Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funds at $24.5 million.
The general fund pays for governmental activities that are largely paid for from property taxes and other unrestricted revenues.
In discussing the budget proposals, Couch said: "This year's emphasis was about accuracy ... creating an accurate baseline."
Local economic recovery will improve some elastic tax revenues such as cable franchise taxes, alcoholic beverage excise taxes, insurance premium taxes, financial institution taxes and occupation taxes, he said.
Revenues from "certain licenses and permits such as those for building permits, alcohol licenses, marriage and pistol permits and finger printing fees have improved," and other revenues such as solid waste recycling and container rental revenues are "on an increasing upward trend," Couch said.
Other revenues are showing signs that the economy is improving, but because the county has tapped into its fund balance in the recent past due to the recession, measures are still necessary to ensure rebuilding of the fund balance and to avoid raising taxes, Couch said.
"I feel better about these numbers than I have over the past two years," he said. "The economy has gotten better, and we're back to early post-recession levels."
However, the purse strings will remain tight.
"We will still have to monitor spending and there is no room for waste," Couch said.
Couch recommends creating no new positions, maintaining limited expenditure, limiting overtime and other cost-saving measures. In some areas, revenues are down, such as in traffic fine collections through the courts.
He did suggest a 1 percent cost of living increase for full-time employees, as well as other small perks.
Commissioners expressed satisfaction with Couch's proposals.
"I think you've done as much as you can do with the money we have," Commissioner Roy Thompson said. "If you don't have the money, you can't spend it. This board is committed to no tax increases."
Commission Chairman Garrett Nevil agreed.
"You've done an excellent job working with what we have to work with," he said. "For a while we're going to have to play catch-up."
Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.