Decatur County Commissioners face new $1 million deficit in upcoming year’s budget


Despite continued efforts to limit expenses and raise new revenue, the Decatur County Board of Commissioners will face an estimated $1 million gap between spending and revenue as they work on their 2014-2015 fiscal year budget.

At Tuesday morning’s county commissioners’ meeting, County Administrator Gary Breedlove gave a budget overview to commissioners, who were holding a budget workshop at midday with representatives from various county departments following the regular board meeting.

Two of the factors Breedlove listed as contributing to the $1 million deficit were:

  •  the loss of the City of Bainbridge’s garbage service (accounting for about $300,000). The county is working to replace the lost revenue with new sources of solid waste business, primarily from North Florida.
  • An approximately $500,000 increase in personnel costs. “If the economy continues to remain flat, and personnel costs continue to go up, we will have to look at controlling those costs.”

One new source of revenue that may develop within the next year is a proposed sale of timber on about 300-400 acres of county-owned land. The area the timber would be cut from is part of a larger 949-acre tract the county owns around its landfill off U.S. 27 South near Attapulgus. It hasn’t been determined yet whether the timber would be clear-cut or merely thinned, however the county has received three bids from area logging companies, according to Breedlove.

The timber sale would bring in about $400,000 in a one-time sale. However, pine trees could be re-planted on the acreage and harvested again in the future, as the land won’t be needed for landfill expansion for some time, Breedlove said.

Sales tax has been flat since January 2013, the county administrator said. He said farmers have made increasing use of Georgia Agricultural Tax Exemption cards to make farm-related purchases, and the federal government has withheld larger amounts for Social Security and Medicare contributions from workers’ paychecks.

Meanwhile, fuel costs have been on the rise overall, with the county spending $200,000 more on diesel and gasoline in the 2013-2014 budget year than in 2010.

The county has seen some positive progress on its budget overall. It has paid off some of its loans early to avoid higher interest rates; currently the highest interest rate the county is paying on a loan is just 2.4 percent, according to Breedlove.

The Decatur County government has also reined in spending better and so far this year has not had to dip into its Tax Anticipation Note (TAN) loan, as it has the past two years to make ends meet. The TAN is essentially a line of credit borrowed against property tax payments the county expects to receive later in the year. Breedlove said he expects the county will have to borrow from its current TAN in August and September to keep the county government operating, however its dependence on the TAN will likely be reduced.

County commissioners will hold a public hearing on the proposed FY 2014-2015 budget on Monday, June 16 at noon in the meeting room of the County Administration Building, 203 W. Broughton Street in Bainbridge. The fiscal year runs from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015.

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