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No millage hike expected in county budget
FY14 spending plan draft slightly higher than current fiscal years
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Effingham County commissioners have a draft of the fiscal year 2014 budget to go over, after approving a continuing resolution at their meeting last week.

The continuing resolution allows the county to operate at the FY13 budget levels, and no new capital expenditures can be made, unless approved by the commissioners, until the FY14 budget is adopted.

The 2014 fiscal year will start July 1, but commissioners will hold their first meeting on the proposed budget July 8.

The rollback rate, based on the digest and the anticipated revenues needed for the FY14 budget, is 8.621.

"By using a rate below the rollback rate, the county will be reducing tax revenue received but will provide some level of savings to taxpayers," temporary county administrator Toss Allen told commissioners in his letter to commissioners about the draft budget. "In this draft, staff has proposed some additional positions in specific areas to meet rising service demands, while consolidation and organizational structures prevent the need for additional staffing."

Commissioners will go over a projected $26.7 million budget, up from FY13’s $26.4 million, with anticipated revenues of $26.3 million.

The proposed spending plan also calls for a contingency amount of $150,000 and the use of more than $400,000 in fund balance. Revenues are expected to remain at the FY13 level.

In the draft budget, county staff is proposing a 3 percent cost of living adjustment and 2 percent in merit pay raises, along with reductions from the county to the employee retirement plans and reductions in inmate housing costs. There also are projected reductions in food service costs for inmates and for the senior citizens program.

Cost of living adjustments have not been included in the county budget since 2009.

The property tax digest has grown slightly, from just under $1.51 billion to $1.53 billion, and county staff is projecting to keep the millage rate at 8.558. At that millage, the county expects to collect $13.1 million in property taxes.

Projections also call for the county to take in $5.6 million in local option sales taxes, based on collections of $8.5 million. The county and the cities agreed to a new split of LOST proceeds in April.

"We feel that the board of commissioners, staff and our elected officials have made a concerted effort to meet the growing needs of the county while using prudent fiscal mechanisms to fund those needs," Allen wrote.

Commissioners also are expected to set the overall millage rate for the county, including the millage rate for the hospital authority. The Effingham Industrial Development Authority’s millage rate is set at 2 mills by the state constitution, and the school board has set its millage rate at 16.897.