That is because county leaders voted earlier to switch to a fiscal year that runs Oct. 1 through Sept. 30. The county currently operates on a calendar year and the change would help the county better match its revenues with expenses, Chief Financial Officer Janelle Funk said.
A public hearing on the proposed budget is scheduled for 6 p.m. Jan. 17 at the county administration building.
The commission could adopt the budget at that meeting, but Chairman Buzz Ahrens said the body may hold off on adopting it until the Feb. 7 meeting to give the public time to review it and provide feedback.
The nine-month budget is proposed at $132.3 million, down from $133.8 million when compared to the first nine months of 2011.
The budget calls for no layoffs, furloughs or cuts to county-wide services.
The budget is based on a 9.13 millage rate, broken down as 5.36 for the general fund, 3.129 for the fire district and 0.641 for the parks bond.
A home valued at $170,000 with the standard $5,000 exemption paid about $560 in county taxes last year.
General fund reserves are estimated at $5.3 million, up slightly from $3.3 million from last year.
Commissioner Harry Johnston said this year’s numbers came at no surprise to the commissioners as the millage rate setting process provided the county with a glimpse of what was down the pipeline.
Funk said each department head was asked to limit his or her budget to 75 percent of what was budgeted for that department in 2011, but added increases in elections, fuel and electricity costs, and decreases in legal costs, were included in last summer’s process of setting the millage rate.
The county also utilized one-time funding sources to cover the budget year, including $1.4 million in pension credits and $638,000 in additional jail funding sources over the nine-month period.
It did not, however, calculate the sale of the former Jones administration building in downtown Canton into its proposed budget.
Johnston said that while the county was fortunate it was able to use that one-time source, “we’re not completely out of the woods.”
He noted use of the jail funding was up to the discretion of Cherokee County Sheriff Roger Garrison, “but we can’t continue using that money forever,” adding FY 13 might bring more cuts or, worst case scenario, another tax increase “none of us want.”
Commissioner Karen Bosch said, while she’d like to see revenues higher for the county, she’s pleased with the county’s position.
She noted that while dwindling revenues and a reduction in the county’s tax digest is beyond the county’s control, Cherokee has “reacted properly.”
“I’m pleased we’ve been able to keep our head above water and we’ve cut where we needed to cut,” she said, adding she’d like to do more for county employees.
The proposed budget also includes the elimination of 32 full-time positions, 17 from the county’s incentivized selective retirement plan and 15 from reorganizations and elimination of vacant positions and replacing them with part-time employees.
Funk said the reduction will save the county about $1 million on an annual basis.
The county will have 1,313 employees for 2012 and Funk indicated the county’s employee ratio is 5.48 per 1,000 people.
County Commissioner Jason Nelms said he was pleased to see the county’s ratio and added the county continues to remain efficient with its reduction in staff.
“Overall, I think for being where we are with the economic landscape, Cherokee is positioned pretty well compared to our peers,” he said.
Other 2012 county funds include the general fund at $41.2 million, down from $42 million; insurance premium tax fund at $4.5 million, up from $4.4 million; fire fund at $13.2 million down from $13.7 million; transportation fund at $900,000, down from $1.2 million; E-911 fund at $3.1 million, down from $3.2 million; EMS fund at $4.9 million, down from $5.1 million; parks and recreation fund at $2.3 million, up from $2 million; animal shelter fund at $800,000, up from $700,000; and senior services fund at $900,000, which held steady from last year.
Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or SPLOST, funds are projected to be $27.8 million, up from $23 million, and parks bond collections are slated to be $15 million, up from $13 million
Funk said the county increased its capital investment spending, but does not equate to an increase to the amount taxpayers are footing the bill.
She said increase is driven by anticipated collections and projects being completed or underway.
Ahrens said he didn’t see any real weaknesses the county is facing for fiscal year 2012, adding Funk and County Manager Jerry Cooper did a “terrific job” in crafting a tight budget.
County Commission member Jim Hubbard said each of the county’s department heads is working hard to maintain current levels of service in the face of budget reductions.
He also said the county’s employees are stepping up to the plate when it comes to taking on more responsibilities in the face of vacancies in their respective offices.
“The people aren’t slacking off and leaving the public hanging,” he said. “They are doing the things that need to be done. And I’m just thrilled everyone is working together to help us maintain this lean, efficient government through this crisis.”
The Cherokee County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday also:
n Approved a request from Hoyt T. Champion to rezone 5.9 acres at the Highway 140/Hickory Flat Highway intersection with Mountain Vista Boulevard from R-40 to office/industrial use for a proposed assisted living facility with a medical office on site;
n Elected Bosch as vice chair for 2012;
n Informed the public it will have its annual planning retreat 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Jan. 26 and from 8 a.m. to noon Jan. 27 at Barnsley Gardens at 597 Barnsley Gardens Road in Adairsville;
n Authorized Ahrens to execute a contract with the Georgia Department of Transportation to resurface 13.96 miles of road, totaling $1.2 million; and
n Approved awarding a construction contract to Ed Castro Landscape, Inc. of Roswell in an amount not to exceed $75,000 to perform landscaping and trees installation at the Soccer Complex on Blalock Road.