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County says coffers in good shape
No millage rate hike expected
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Results of a recently released outside audit show Bryan County’s government remains in strong financial shape.
And that’s not the only good news for Bryan residents, who should also see the county’s millage rate stay the same in the coming fiscal year, which begins Jan. 1.
“I think we’re going to be able to hold the line and have no tax increases even though the digest is down” Commission Chairman Jimmy Burnsed said Tuesday, noting commissioners are expected to adopt the current millage rate of 7.9 mills in September.
That means public hearings to set the rate should be a far cry from those held last year, when opposition to a proposed 1 mill increase led the county to settle on a 0.4 bump to the rate of 7.9.
It also spurred commissioners to cut spending in 2010 by 6.1 percent, which also meant less money to be socked away for emergencies.
The county set aside slightly more than $131,000 in 2010 for emergencies, according to the audit by Statesboro-based Thigpen & Lanier Westfield & Deal.
The audit noted that the 0.8 percent set aside for contingencies “provides reasonable assurances that funds are available for unexpected expenses.”
Yet it also warns the county not to plan additional work it doesn’t have budgeted.  
“We don’t have the real cushion we had a few years ago,” Burnsed said. “But that’s going to be something we’ll have to deal with. I think we’ve done a pretty good job of managing that over the last couple of years, but it’s not the easiest thing to do in this economy.”
As for tax hikes, Pembroke and the Board of Education also have already announced they won’t raise the millage rate. Richmond Hill has not said whether it will keep the rate the same.
In general, the audit’s findings show the following:
• The county had net assets of more than $77 million in 2009. More than 85 percent of that was invested in capital assets ranging from buildings to infrastructure, machinery and construction in progress. Net assets were $80 million in 2008, but capital assets increased from $70 million to 73.5 million from 2008 until 2009.
• The general fund budget for 2010 reflects a decrease of $1.09 million in operational spending. By contrast, expenses went up in 2009 from the previous year from $24.3 million to more than $26.5 million. The biggest ticket items in 2009 were public safety at $9.1 million and public works at $7.1 million.
• Sales tax revenue dropped in 2009, falling to $6.9 million. It was $7.6 million in 2008. The county also lost more than $2.6 million in stimulus funding that it received in 2008.
• Property taxes and sales taxes made up 74 percent of the county’s total revenues -- while user fees and other charges amounted to 16 percent of the total. Overall, revenues were down 9 percent from 2008 to 2009.
Bryan County’s total tax digest, including Pembroke and Richmond Hill, dipped to $1.137 billion in 2010. It was $1.152 billion in 2009.
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