By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
County looks to fix projected budget shortfall
Commissioners discuss 2008 budget, consider raising fire fees at meeting
Commissioners Budget correc
County Commissioners talked about the upcoming FY 2008 budget during a meeting Wednesday at courthouse annex in Richmond Hill. - photo by Jessica Holhaus

County officials estimated revenue during the 2008 fiscal year will be approximately $14.5 million.

That’s an increase of roughly $1 million since the 2006 fiscal year.

But the county’s already looking at more than $16.4 million worth of requests, Bryan County Administrator Phil Jones said at a called meeting Wednesday.

"We need to reach out to every nook and cranny," Bryan County Commission Chairman Jimmy Burnsed told Jones before the meeting was called to order, referring to looking at ways the county can increase its revenue.

With the county’s estimated revenue falling short for the upcoming year, discussion circled around ways to close the gap.

Commissioners all agreed that hiking county fire fees would be one step toward increasing the revenue.

"I think that’s the right thing to do," Jones said. "That’s a user fee, and it’s a direct benefit. We did those numbers once before, and it’s been awhile since we’ve thought about it."

Jones recommended the commissioners increase the county’s fire fees from $70 to $100, which would increase budget revenue by almost $200,000.

Since business permits and licenses haven’t had any significant adjustments since 1996, Burnsed suggested these fees be increased, but admitted it won’t do much for the budget.

"One of my pet peeves with the state legislator is (them) talking about eliminating the ad valorem tax," Burnsed said. Without the tax, other fees would have to continue increasing in order to make up the difference.

"They always talk about looking at other forms of revenue than ad valorem. The reason we need to look at it is we need to show them how small that is of an increase. You might get some revenue from another source, like business permits – but it’s almost insignificant," he said.

"It’s less than an eyelash," Jones said of what that increase would do for revenue.

EMS generates increasing revenues each year, and was another hot topic.

For 2008, they have an estimated budget of $1.6 million.

This high ticket item concerned some of the commissioners, especially in regard to the ad valorem tax.

"If that happens, then we would look at our revenue generated and there would be a household fee attached to everything. And at that time, EMS would be paid for in the future thought that," said Jones.

Commissioner Toby Roberts spoke up, saying it’s taken the county "10 years to have proper EMS equipment," and now, "we’re finally on the right track."

In the future, Jones recommended new EMS trucks be purchased with Global Positioning Systems, and existing vehicles should also be considered for upgrades with GPS.

It was discussed that an EMS fee might be instituted, but nothing definitive was planned during the meeting.

Commissioner Ed Bacon next brought up the county’s recreation budget.

The tentative budget had allotted recreation $1 million, but by the end of the meeting, Bacon and Roberts both agreed it needed to be increased to $1.5 million.

Jones asked whether the commissioners wanted to estimate a general $1.5 million, or specifically $1,500,000.

"I want to say $1.5 because I want it to grow as the county needs to grow," Bacon said.

There was also some discussion of establishing new playing fields out by Genesis Point at the site of the county’s new wastewater and sewage treatment facility.

With the land being undevelopable for residential building, creating more recreational amenities in the area would make good use of the land, commissioners said.

"We need to utilize land…to generate new parks as we go," Bacon said.

"There’s nothing worse than having an underground drip-irrigation system that’s just vacant land," Jones said. "You can’t do anything on it, but you can have recreation on it. So there’s nothing wrong with going out there and converting those empty fields to soccer or baseball fields."

Jones said that the increase for this upcoming year’s budget happened because of three things: utility increases, fuel cost increases and personnel pay raises, "with a few exceptions."

As far as trying to make small cuts in the budget here or there, Jones said it won’t make any overall difference.

"In my estimation, there’s not a whole lot that you can go back and chop out," he said.

For 2008, there are new hires in the works for Bryan County.

The commissioners all agreed that the county needs a human resources person for the communications office to handle HR, personnel, and finances.

Jones said that hiring a planning director would also be a good idea, noting the two positions were partially built into the budget.

The commissioners urged Jones to continue with plans to fill the positions, adding that if the revenue was available toward the end of this year, hires could happen before the start of the new fiscal year.

These salary add-ins, along with the recreational program, will increase the budget, while the fire fee increase will off-set some of the deficit.

Jones finished by telling the commissioners he would go through and re-work the budget, getting them a new number sometime soon.

He estimated the finalized budget should be ready by mid-August for commissioners to vote on.

Sign up for our E-Newsletters