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Hall OKs new budget that reduces employee furlough days
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Hall County’s 2013 budget highlights

The approved fiscal 2013 general budget, which begins in July, is $89.2 million for the general fund. The approved fiscal 2012 budget was $85.6 million; fiscal 2011 was $90.5 million.

The total county budget is $190.8 million. That includes the general, fire and other operational funds, which are self supported by user fees and other revenue sources.

There are no roll-ups or tax increase. The property tax rate will be 6.25 mills for the general fund. The fire district tax remains 1.65 mills for unincorporated Hall County and 3.08 mills for incorporated. One mill equals $1 for every $1,000 of taxable property value.

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.

Hall County government

With little fanfare or controversy, the Hall County Board of Commissioners adopted its fiscal 2013 budget Friday.

The $89.2 million general fund budget, unanimously approved by commissioners, boasts a reduction of county employee furlough days to three from the 12 that have been in place for the past four years.

Property tax rates won’t change.

“It sure is a lot easier this year than it was last year,” Chairman Tom Oliver said.

The fiscal 2012 budget drew public protests over proposed cuts as the county tried to trim an $11.5 million budget gap without raising taxes.

This year, the budget shows an increase in spending from the $85.6 million in the fiscal 2012 budget despite a continued decline in the tax digest. However, county officials are anticipating an increase in revenues from sales tax, service fees, fines and forfeitures to make up the difference.

Those projections have come with some worries, though. Commissioner Craig Lutz has expressed skepticism that those expectations, including a $2.2 million increase in sales tax revenue, may be overly optimistic.

The worry is that if the economy falters again and revenues don’t meet projections, the county could be stuck with tough choices to make up the difference.

But Lutz said Friday he was thought the county was well-prepared for that possibility.

County Administrator Randy Knighton said monthly revenues and department expenditures will be monitored to ensure the budget stays on track.

“I feel very comfortable with them putting mechanisms in place to track revenue and (spending) so we won’t end up having (to do) anything knee-jerk in the future if the revenues don’t hit the spot,” Lutz said.

The proposed budget has received a lot positive feedback, especially over improved conditions for county employees. They have spent years dealing with furloughs and, more recently, a loss in 401(k) retirement contributions.

In the new budget, a 2 percent contribution for retirements will kick in Jan. 1. And while furloughs are not completely going away, they are being drastically reduced.

County officials said the move will increase services, but will also be a big break for county employees.

“I want to thank you and I think I speak for all Hall County employees for making that decision,” said Human Resource director Linda Pryor to the commission Friday. “I think that’s going to be wonderful for employees in the coming days.”

Those furlough reductions and retirement contributions were made possible in part because of increased revenue projections. But officials also credit about $2.2 million reductions in operational costs, much of that coming from the Hall County Sheriff’s Office.

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