County poised to pass $24 million budget

Patrick Yost News

Despite an overall general fund increase of $697,000, Morgan County Commissioners last week at a monthly called work session reviewed a proposed 2019 county budget that leaves room for the board to take the rollback millage rate. The total general fund budget for the county is expected to be nearly $18 million.

According to Morgan County Finance Director Lori Sayer, the general fund will experience the increase, in part because of a 3 percent cost of living pay raises for employees and an increase for the county’s depleted contingency fund. The proposed budget includes a line item for $347,197 for the contingency fund. According to Sayer, the county should, by state guidelines, have a contingency fund equal to between 15 percent and 25 percent of its general fund budget. With the increase, she said, the fund will get back to nearly 25 percent.

Morgan County Manager Adam Mestres said the county’s contingency fund had suffered since the recession when revenues dropped across the board.

“We are trying to play catch up,” Sayer said.

Mestres told the board, however, that revenues in 2018 are expected to increase, in part because of a rising economy and property values that are creeping higher. “We have new growth and new growth is good,” he said. “We have new revenues coming into the county.”

Proposed tax revenues are $14,471,250.

“Overall there was a 4 percent growth in the digest and 3 percent of that came from new growth,” Sayer said.

Sayer also outlined an increase of two new positions for the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office totaling $130,000. “Since I’ve been here this is the first time the sheriff’s office is almost fully staffed,” she said.

The budget also includes a $130,000 line item for new truck for public works.

Mestres said department heads have been tasked with a 10 percent reduction in non-salary expenditures last year and, for the most part, those reductions have given the county some room in the budget. “It’s anticipated we’ll come in under budget (this fiscal year),” he said. “We’re on a good footing.”

Sayer said healthcare cost for county employees is projected to drop by 10 percent.

Overall, including solid waste revenues and expenditures and two Special Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) categories, the county’s total budget is $24,778,413.

Budgeted expenditures for 2019 include $2,232,410; $1,836,736 for jail operations; $1,428,278 for Roads and Bridges and $1,199,548 for health.

SPLOST funds are projected to bring in approximately $4.5 million and the county’s solid waste facility is projected to bring in $1,092,978.

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