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County manager: Bulloch budget doing very, very well
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    In spite of a gloomy economical picture, the Bulloch County Commission is holding its own and the county budget isn’t nearly as threatened as other counties across the state, said Bulloch County Manager Tom Couch during Tuesday morning’s Bulloch County Commission meeting workshop.
    “We’re doing very, very well,” he said about the fiscal year 2009 budget.
    Revenues so far are “slightly lower than last year” and there are several areas where collection from the City of Statesboro has not yet been resolved, he said.
    Couch questioned whether city officials had been billed yet for animal control services and reimbursement for water and sewer expenses, among other things. He also said rent from the state for the county Department of Family and Children Services building had not yet been received.
    But although the county budget is not in dire straits, like some other counties, Bulloch County leaders are still being conservative and “avoiding making unnecessary expenditures,” he said.
    Every effort is being made to collect revenues, including property taxes, which are slower than normal coming in, he said.
    Couch said all funds and revenues are being reviewed, including the Splash in  the Boro aquatic center fund. There are plans to expand and improve upon  the regional attraction.
    The fund balance is well over $1 million and the park will hopefully open in May, he said.
    The Statesboro-Bulloch County Airport fund is also doing well. “Operational funds are in good shape,” he  told commissioners. An increase in revenues offsets the fact that the SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) funds are being diminished by payments for a corporate hangar. Only $12,000 is left in  that fund, Couch said.
    The Parks and Recreations fund is “favorable,” he said. “We don’t see anything the budget to cry “Chicken Little” about.”
    There are also collection issues to resolve with the City of Statesboro regarding landfill tippage fees and Keep Bulloch Beautiful expenses, but Couch said he felt confident those collections would be incoming soon.
    Overall, the budget seems to be stable, he said. “Every other fund is doing well at this point. Compared to many local governments right now, we’re in pretty decent shape.”
    Couch spoke about challenges to be included in the fiscal year 2010 budget, such as the expansion of Emergency Medical Services, likely in the Brooklet area.
    Ambulance fees may help fund  the expansions as opposed to SPLOST money,  and the expansion is “ the only discretionary expense proposed” at this time, he said.
    “We’re in a much better financial situation than most other governments,” he again told commissioners. Then Couch gave four reasons he felt the county is in better financial shape than others:
    “I give credit to good stewardship and forward planning,” he said. “We’re on top (of the situation).”
    The necessary tax increase to resolve the structural budget last year is another reason Bulloch County is in a financially stable position now, he said.
    Cutting back over the past four years made a tremendous difference as well, he said. Across-the-board cutbacks were done to save money because “We knew what we had to do.”
    And finally, “This time last year, we saw it coming,” Couch told commissioners. “We made adjustments” to further conserve.
    Upcoming challenges for the county include the third and last stage of the minimum wage increase, the proposed Homeowner’s Tax Relief grant and its impact upon county government, and  the economy, he said.

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