White County has found a recession-proof source of revenue — beer and wine.
County Manager Carol Jackson said over the last year, alcohol sales exceeded county expectations, providing enough cash to buy two new patrol cars for the White County Sheriff’s Office.
Starting in 2009, restaurants and stores in the county were given the option to sell beer and wine for the first time. Jackson said with just 23 businesses licensed to sell alcohol, the county did not know what type of revenue to expect.
“Last year’s commissioners and finance people didn’t have a clue what to budget for because we’d never had it,” Jackson said. “It was totally new ground for us.”
She said the county modestly budgeted for the possibility of $10,000 from wine sales and $17,000 from beer sales.
“Through the end of March, we have collected almost $100,000,” Jackson said. “We have done extremely well.”
And that doesn’t even represent a whole year, she said. The alcohol sales ordinance was passed in November 2008 and took effect Jan. 1, 2009, but it took a few months before the county could process and issue alcoholic beverage licenses.
“Even from that short period of time we didn’t have a real feel for it until we’ve collected now from July through March, and it’s showing us a nice collection,” Jackson said.
Prior to the ordinance, Helen was the only place in the county where alcohol could be sold. White County residents had voted down alcohol sales several times in the past.
Jackson said the money will be helpful in buying badly needed vehicles to add to the sheriff’s office fleet.
“We haven’t bought any in the last two or three years because of the budget restraints, so we have some that are just worn out and out of date,” Jackson said. “It’s good to have the extra income in these tough economic times.”
The Hall County Sheriff’s Office also will be getting a few new patrol cars this year. The county has had a freeze on capital purchases for the past two budget years to combat declining tax collections, .
But a partnership with the Drug Enforcement Agency has given the sheriff’s office the opportunity to share in any assets, seizures or forfeitures.
The Hall County Sheriff’s Office estimates it will be able to purchase about 16 vehicles this year with funds from the partnership.