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County may have to re-think its list of SPLOST projects
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Effingham County commissioners are expected to take a look at what projects they want to continue, and which ones may have to wait or be abandoned, in light of sales tax receipts not making projections.

The current special purpose local option sales tax expires next year and was projected to bring $50 million. With $9.475 million set aside for the three cities, that left $40.5 million for the county to spend on projects. But the county may only take in $33 million before the current SPLOST ends.

“There are some adjustments on the percentages as far as where these funds are available,” said county finance director Joanna Wright. “Due to those adjustments and the feasibility of those capital projects, there will be a workshop to discuss amending and updating this particular resolution to exactly which projects we’ll be funding and which projects will go forward.”

Wright presented county commissioners with a look at the county’s year-end finances — the county’s fiscal year runs from July 1-June 30 —and commissioners also reviewed and adopted the annual audit.

Last year, the county took in $8.17 million in SPLOST receipts and another $6.3 million in LOST, or local option sales taxes. The SPLOST revenues are up from $7.8 million a year ago and represent a 4 percent increase.

“It’s going up, and we hope that it will,” Wright said.

In fiscal year 2011, the county received $29.83 million in its general fund, with $16.4 million coming from property taxes, meaning about 55.1 percent of the county’s general fund revenues come through property taxes. Collections, as a result of online payments, were up approximately 4 percent. General fund revenues for FY2010 were $29.02 million.

The county also took in about 20 percent more in fines, up almost $200,000 from the previous year.

General fund expenditures for FY11 were $28.74 million and total government fund expenditures — including SPLOST and grants, among other sources — were $37.92 million. The FY12 budget is $27,056,627.

Commissioners opted to tap into their fund balance, transferring $5 million to the special tax district set up by the service delivery agreements and more than $11.5 million to the water and sewer and wastewater treatment funds.

The net operating loss for the county water and sewer system was approximately $628,000 and the net operating loss for the wastewater treatment system was nearly $1 million. The county has approximately 720 water and sewer customers.

The county has gone from a fund balance in the general fund of $25.2 million to a fund balance of $11.1 million.

“There are significant changes due to decisions by the board,” Wright said of the fund balance. “In the service delivery, we also elected to pay off some of the water-sewer loans. We had to re-do a lot of our financials, due to service delivery. That was a challenge in and of itself to get those done for the current fiscal year.”

The county has net general fund assets of $11.05 million, with about $5.3 million committed to such items as the operating reserve, or rainy day fund. The net SPLOST assets and fund balance are at $11.19 million.

Wright said they also finally got the water and sewer payments available online, “which we are ecstatic about,” she said.