Proposed 2013 budget highlights
- The proposed fiscal 2013 budget, which would begin in July, is $89.2 million for the general fund. The fiscal year 2012 budget is $85.6 million; fiscal year 2011 was $90.5 million.
- There are no roll-ups or tax increases to the general fund.
- County officials are budgeting a $2.2 million increase in revenue from the Local Option Sales Tax.
- County employee furloughs would be reduced from 12 days to three, and a reinstatement of 2 percent county-paid retirement would go into effect Jan. 1.
- The Family Preservation Program in the Community Service Center will be canceled. Meals on Wheels will get additional funding to provide more meals to clients. No Red Rabbit bus service routes are scheduled to be cut. Service hours, fares and route details, however, are expected to change.
What a difference a year makes.
Hall County government rolled through its fiscal year 2013 budget hearing Thursday with no comment from the public.
Compare that to last year when hundreds showed up and dozens spoke out during the fiscal year 2012 hearing against proposed budget slashes meant to close an $11.5 million gap.
That meeting lasted more than three hours.
This one, which included a budget presentation by Finance Director Vickie Neikirk, was a brisk 35 minutes even with other Board of Commissioners business.
“We’re 1,000 comments short of where we were last year,” Commissioner Ashley Bell said in an intended overstatement.
Whereas tax increases and severe program cuts were on the agenda last year, there was little controversy to bring out a crowd with the current proposed budget.
Currently, commissioners are considering an $89.2 million proposal with no tax increases, few program cuts and a reduction of county employee furlough days to three.
The furlough days have been at 12 for four years.
“While this is not an ideal budget during ideal economic times, it is something which I believe can be lived within and can be respected by Hall County citizens,” said Commissioner Billy Powell.
Several commissioners, including Scott Gibbs, said the tough decisions made during the controversial 2012 budget had paved the way for an easier fiscal 2013.
Neikirk said the county still tightened its belt for this proposed budget, which features an estimated $2.2 million reduction in operational expenses from county departments including a $1 million reduction from the sheriff’s office.
In fact, nearly every public official who spoke during Thursday’s meeting praised outgoing Sheriff Steve Cronic for the reductions in his department’s budget.
“We will be missing you and your leadership there,” said Bell to Cronic, “and we’ll be praying that whoever replaces you will have the integrity and courage that you have.”
Cronic’s replacement will be presumably be selected out of a crowded field of Republican candidates during the July 31 primary election.
Amid the nearly palpable optimism at the meeting, Commissioner Craig Lutz did offer some caution.
“I think we have something that’s starting to come into focus now,” he said. “... I think some of the objectives may be, um, ‘out there,’ but obviously we’ll deal with it. It’ll be up to our staff to manage even better moving into the future.”
After the meeting, Lutz clarified that he thought some of the revenue projections — including an increase in funds from the Local Option Sales Tax — were “optimistic.” He said he had concerns about what would happen if the revenues didn’t meet those goals.
Hall County Administrator Randy Knighton, who overheard Lutz’s concerns, said the county would be closely tracking and monitoring each department’s budget monthly “to ensure there is proper monitoring and oversight for the FY13 budget.”
The final budget and millage rate adoption is scheduled for June 22.