Work continues on Stephens County’s proposed Fiscal Year 2014 budget.
County commissioners, County Administrator Phyllis Ayers, and other staff held a budget review and retreat last week at the Kimsey Center in Eastanollee.
Ayers said that the Fiscal Year 2014 budget is proving to be a difficult one that has already resulted in a number of proposed cuts.
“It would be great if we could take our available fund balance and get through a couple of more years, but it is looking like that will not happen,” said Ayers. “Most of the cuts that went back to the departments were actually to get them to the same level of funding that we are doing right now.”
Stephens County has used fund balance monies previously to help make up budget shortfalls.
Ayers said that the fund balance cannot support that this year, even though the fund balance appears to be fairly large at first glance.
“A lot of people talk about our fund balance having such a large amount in it, and that is also the same thing as our reserve or savings account if you want to relate it to something personal,” said Ayers. “There are certain items in the fund balance that are legally restricted that we have to keep in there just to survive.”
At this time, Ayers said no positions have been cut in the proposed budget. She does say that county employees will have to pick up increases in health insurance costs and will not see an increase in pay.
Ayers said that while a number of areas have already seen cuts, more will have to be made.
“The budgets have all gone back to the department heads, the constitutional officers, and the elected officials,” said Ayers. “They each have a certain percentage on the value of their budget that they need to come back this Wednesday and give some ideas on how they can cut their budget.”
According to Ayers, a number of factors have combined to put the county in this situation.
“The value of our digest, our properties, has declined over the last five years close to 15 percent,” said Ayers. “We are bringing in principal and interest of (the debt on the) new jail from the SPLOST IV fund in to the general fund, coupled with the economic situation and mandated funds from the state and federal government.”
Ayers did say at this time, the proposed budget does not include a millage rate increase.
She said a proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2014 will be presented to the commission on Tuesday.
The county must adopt its final Fiscal Year 2014 budget on or before June 30.