Commission Chair J.C. Sanford cautioned departments about proposed increases this week during the on-going 2013 budget talks.
In the face of requested increases, Sanford has asked all departments to keep their budgets at 2012 levels.
“If we granted all these increases (from all departments),”
“We will exhaust our contingency fund.”
He went on to explain that last year the county started feeding a contingency fund with a target amount of $900,000. Due to financial constraints, however, the county came up short, with only $559,046 in the fund. Sanford said if all increases were granted the contingency would be approximately $70,000 in the negative.
The latest LMIG matching rate increase is also straining the budget. LMIG (Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant) is a state grant county governments can use for road projects. Over time, though, municipalities have come to depend on this money for many road projects. Previously, the grant required a 10 percent matching contribution from the counties. But, the rate recently increased for certain counties in the wake of the July Primary due to the TSPLOST (Transportation Special Local Option Sales Tax) referendum.
The referendum legislation divided the state in 12 regions and established a penalty to all counties in regions that voted against the measure. The penalty was an increase in the LMIG matching rate from 10 percent to 30 percent. Even counties that voted for the measure in regions with a majority that voted against it received the penalty. The state overwhelmingly voted against the referendum, with only three regions voting for the tax. Gilmer and Region One voted against it. During a summer Tea Party forum, Citizen John Williamson likened the penalty to blackmail. In the budget hearing this week, Post One Commissioner Will Beattie also lamented the penalty.
“That’s like penalizing somebody if you found out they didn’t vote for you.”
Sanford noted the difficulty in improving the county’s financial situation this year, as it improved it slightly last year, saying the county is expected to receive approximately $200,000 less revenue for 2013. During the discussion of the commissioners’ office budget, which is facing an increase of $7569, the chairman stressed the proposed budget figures are preliminary and will change prior to final approval of the budget expected in November. Commissioner Beattie commented that the outcome of next Tuesday’s Presidential Election may influence the contours of the budget.
“Things may start to loosen up a little, “
“if things go right; if it goes wrong, it’s going to be bad.”