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Commissioners to take another look at budget
County weighs needs, requests versus revenue
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Effingham County commissioners are expected to go over the proposed fiscal year 2008 budget at their meeting today.

From county staff recommendations and through the commissioners’ own cuts at a budget workshop Thursday, the original budget requests have been pared from $30 million to $28.5 million.

“We’re trying to cut it back as far as we can,” Chairwoman Verna Phillips said. “Our intent is to make it as frugal and be as prudent with the tax dollars as we can. I want to thank the staff for a job well done.”

Assessment notices went out beginning last month, and commissioners said they would try to take into account the higher assessments when setting the millage rate. Phillips has said the commissioners don’t want to raise the millage.

The county dipped into its fund balance to use $1.5 million to balance the budget. But commissioners don’t want to have to resort to that again.

“I think a major goal is to keep it to the rollback rate,” County Administrator Ed Williams said. “I will tell you, those carryovers we had in the past will remain in the past. That means we’re not going to have a lot of excess cash for a program that comes up at the end of the year.”

“We can’t continue the way we’re going,” Commissioner Hubert Sapp said.

He also said the county needs to look closely at the number of vehicles it has and the expenses they incur.

“I feel the vehicles in this county are excessive,” Sapp said.

He also cautioned against approving spending requests in the middle of the fiscal year.

“I’ll tell you how to turn the tap off,” he said. “It’s just as easy to say no as it is to say yes.”

Sapp also said that agencies that lose funding from other sources often turn to the county for help.

“I keep looking, and we’re the catchall,” he said. “We cannot continue in that direction.”

Last year, departmental requests topped $33 million before the commissioners approved a $28 million budget.

But other costs are going up, especially fuel for vehicles and benefits for county employees.

“One of the major increases we have discovered is health insurance,” county finance officer Joanna Floyd said.

Also, as the county grows and more people are moving in because Effingham is perceived as a desirable place to be, it puts more strain on the county to provide services.

“The number of people we are serving is going up,” Assistant County Administrator David Crawley said. “And we’re going to see that until we get the growth in commercial.”

“We need more revenue, and we don’t need it from taxes,” Phillips said.

Commissioners will hold another budget hearing Tuesday at 2 p.m. before their regularly scheduled 3 p.m. meeting.