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IDA starts work on budget, keeps working on prospects
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Effingham Industrial Development Authority members took their first look Thursday at a budget they hope to adopt next month.

The IDA isn’t planning on upping its current total operating expenditures from fiscal year 2011. The IDA budgeted $886,000 for operating expenditures and that number isn’t budging for FY12.

“We’re trying to keep it pretty much the same,” IDA CEO John Henry said.

IDA board member Chap Bennett asked if the operating expenditures couldn’t be reduced.

“I want to look very hard at the operating expenditures,” he said. “It’s hard to grow and be good without spending money. But nonetheless, it is most definitely diligent times these days.”

But the IDA wants to put more work in on its I-16 tracts and is considering spending $1.7 million to prepare its holdings there. That line item makes up the lion’s share of the nearly $1.98 million in the proposed budget for capital expenditures.

The tax digest is projected to fall by 1.9 percent, Henry said property tax collections have gone up, and the IDA is estimating to receive $3.2 million in property taxes for FY12. By constitutional amendment, the IDA receives a flat, set rate of 2 mills in property taxes each year.

The IDA is projecting total operating revenues of almost $3.7 million next year and will be using its capital reserves to bolster its non-operating revenue. That also includes an estimated $310,000 from the sales of timber on the IDA’s holdings.

“We had maintained cash reserves for two purposes — to get refinancing done and we have a lot of improvements to do so we can put jobs on the ground,” Bennett said.

IDA Chairman Dennis Webb noted the Henry, project manager Ryan Moore and Erin Rahn have been kept busy with prospects and the tempo has picked up pace. The IDA staff is handling eight current prospects.

“We have to be aware that the projects coming through that office have increased, and that takes money to work those projects,” Webb said.

Said Henry: “We’ve been very busy.”

One prospect Henry said he was ready to put on hiatus called back and said they wanted to move forward. That is one of two firms looking at the old Savannah Yacht building in the Effingham Industrial Park. The building is bank-owned, and Henry said those firms would have to negotiate with the bank and not the IDA for a price on the facility.

Henry said the coming summer months could be even more hectic.

“We think the Southeast in general is going to heat up this summer,” he said, “especially the Savannah market. We’re going to see a lot of prospects.”