It's another year of no tax increase for Bulloch County residents, as Bulloch County commissioners approved an overall balanced budget Tuesday of around $55 million.
The Fiscal Year 2018 Bulloch County general appropriations budget is around $38,500,000, said Bulloch County Manager Tom Couch.
The budget allows for pay raises for employees, the addition of several new employees, and services to improve roads, buildings and other county properties, he said.
All regular full-time employees employed on or before July 1, 2017, will be eligible to receive a merit-based compensation adjustment after Jan. 1, 2018, at a rate of up to 1.5 percent, and all regular full-time employees employed on or before July 1, 2017, shall be eligible to receive a cost-of-living compensation adjustment to become effective no earlier than July 1, 2017, at a rate of 2 percent.
As approved during the 2017 session of the Georgia General Assembly, elected and appointed county officials including the Board of Commissioners, the probate judge, the magistrates, the tax commissioner, the sheriff and the superior court clerk, will be eligible to receive a cost-of-living adjustment to become effective no earlier than Jan. 1, 2018, at a rate of 2 percent, plus any longevity increases prescribed in law, according to the budget summary (available for viewing in its entirety online at bullochga.iqm2.com).
Bulloch County commission Chairman Roy Thompson said he is pleased to approve a budget that allows for no tax increase.
"The statement was made early on — no tax increase," he said during Tuesday's morning meeting.
In 2016, a 1.91 mill property tax increase was approved to meet specific goals of a five-year financial plan to remediate the county's declining financial condition "and to provide additional resources that were immediately needed for law enforcement, judicial support and first-response emergency personnel, which has now been satisfied," according to the budget summary.
Also in 2016, there was an ad valorem tax increase, with additional funding "released over a two-year period to added employees in public safety, courts and other key areas," the budget summary stated.
With a determination not to allow a reduction in basic service levels, the budget also provides for the addition of several positions.
What the budget does
Couch said the budget will increase and maintain operations in tune with community growth, allow for capital growth and provide for needs in health and welfare, community/economic development, general government, libraries and recreation.
The budget will also cover mandated program requirements; essential agreements and contracts; critical facility, vehicle and equipment needs; service improvements; and new programs, he said.
The budget is expected to be supplemented by approximately $3.75 million in outside grant funding by various agencies, largely for capital outlays. The grant monies were incorporated into the general appropriations budget and include $1,972,000 from FEMA/GEMA disaster recovery funds as a result of Hurricane Matthew and tornadoes in January 2017; $1,392,000 from the 2017 Georgia Department of Transportation for the Local Maintenance Improvement Program, which will be used for road resurfacing; and $240,000 for the Statesboro-Bulloch County Airport for runway improvements, obstruction clearance, the replacement of a re-fueling center and design services for forward projects.
Also included are $183,000 from the Georgia Criminal Justice Coordinating Council for the Bulloch County Mental Health Accountability Court Program; $180,000 from a FEMA Assistance to Firefighters grant to purchase a fire apparatus; $100,000 from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Land and Water Conservation Fund for improvements at Memorial Park; $20,000 from the Georgia Southern University Law Library for furniture, fixtures and equipment in judicial spaces; $5.6 million for road and access improvements at I-16 and U.S. 301, near and within the new industrial park; a $1.5 million grant and a $1,877,000 loan from the Georgia State Transportation Infrastructure Bank; $1,392,000 from the 2018 Georgia Department of Transportation for the Local Maintenance Improvement Program; and $831,000 in 2013 SPLOST economic development funds.
What we get
The major operating fiscal expenditure warrants for FY 2018 include one new full-time court services transport deputy, one full-time sheriff's school resource officer (pending Board of Education funding), a full-time agricultural arena manager, a full-time GIS technician and a full-time fleet diesel mechanic.
Also approved are two part-time animal shelter attendants, one part-time tax assessors mobile home appraiser and one part-time solid waste driver. A part-time/full-time conversion also was approved for a human resources technician.
Major capital fiscal expenditure warrants for FY 2018 include the completion of a shovel-ready dirt road paving for R.J. Kennedy and Key Akins roads, 13–15 miles of network and neighborhood road resurfacing, I-16/U.S. 301 road improvements at the new industrial park, road striping for one-sixth of the county's paved roads, and two southeast quadrant roundabout intersection improvements.
Also, the county will add one ambulance for EMS to retire one from an aging fleet and reduce maintenance costs, one fire apparatus contingent on the acquisition of grant funds to retire aging fleet and reduce maintenance cost, five vehicles for the sheriff's department to retire aging fleet and reduce maintenance costs, personal protective equipment for the fire, probation and sheriff's departments, and one solid waste roll-off truck.
The budget will also allow for the construction of an addition to the animal shelter, a new senior citizens center contingent on the acquisition of grant funds, the construction of a new transportation muster facility, and the replacement of the roof at the judicial annex, as well as flooring and furniture.
Other expenditures include various technology improvements (computers and telephones) to retire aging equipment and reduce maintenance costs, radio replacements for public works functions, new gasoline pumps at the public works complex, various parks improvements and upgrades at all existing recreation complexes countywide, construction of the multipurpose agricultural arena, a new recycling and waste convenience center in southern Bulloch County, and runway rehabilitation and refueling center improvements at the Statesboro-Bulloch County Airport.