CANTON — Cherokee County is considering a reduced budget for fiscal 2014, due partly to fewer capital expenditures to build parks.
On Tuesday, the Board of Commissioners will hold a hearing during its regular meeting to solicit feedback from the public on the budget, which is planned to be down $20 million in expenses from the fiscal 2013 budget of $187.3 million.
Within the proposed $167.3 million budget for 2014 are increased revenue from the new title ad valorem tax on car tags and the $1.6 million sale of the Jones Building in downtown Canton. Commissioners are set to vote on the budget Oct. 1.
Lower payments for debt service on bond financing for Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax projects that have now been paid off are also part of the $20 million budget reduction.
The county’s total operating budgeted amount is, however, up at $117.3 million, an increase of $1.75 million from fiscal 2013, mostly to fund raises for county employees.
Commissioner Raymond Gunnin said Friday the reductions in the budget are a positive sign for Cherokee County.
“To me, it worked out better than I ever dreamed it would,” Gunnin said. “I thought we were blessed to get it the way we did. We wouldn’t have been able to do what we did if the department heads hadn’t kept their budgets in line.”
But despite decreases, Gunnin said he is pleased to see at least one increase in the proposed budget.
Within the budget, all county employees are planned to receive a cost-of-living raise of 3 percent, which, according to Gunnin, is overdue.
“The employees haven’t had a raise in nearly five years, and we were struggling how we were going to do it,” he said.
Commissioner Harry Johnston also said Friday the pay raise is “absolutely” necessary.
“For one thing, the employees have not only seen no raises, but they’ve had to absorb some increases in costs,” Johnston said.
Johnston said employees have experienced higher costs, most notably for increases in the county’s medical insurance plans.
“They’ve taken actually a hit to their net, take-home income,” he said.
On top of the increased medical costs, Johnston said the employees have, like other residents, had to endure inflation in rates for the cost of living in general.
“The cost of living has increased over the last five years,” he said. “This 3 percent won’t cover all that, but at least it will (give us a) step toward keeping pace with inflation.”
Also, in the proposed fiscal 2014 budget, the county is planned to continue paying $100,000 a month in lease payments resulting from the deal between the Resource Recovery Development Authority and Jimmy Bobo, who filed for bankruptcy in 2012, turning the property — and the payments — over to Cherokee County.
Johnston, who was a member of the RRDA when it was created in 2006 to guarantee $18 million in bond debt on relocating Bobo’s facility, said the choice to budget a full year’s debt in fiscal 2014 is hopefully just “hinging our bets” in case a new operator isn’t found to take over the payments.
“I would’ve said a couple years ago that we would have had it leased by now, but it has taken longer than we thought,” Johnston said. “So really some of my optimism has faded.”
Johnston said, though, that the county is “closer” than it’s ever been to finding an operator for the facility and relieving the taxpayers from the burden of making the lease payments.
“We have some good prospects that we’re working with, solid serious prospects,” he said. “But they’re slow in actually making a firm decision. So while I hope we only have to make one of those two semi-annual payments this year, there is no guarantee of that and we took the conservative approach and budgeted for all of it.”
Also during its meeting Tuesday, the Board of Commissioners will:
• Consider approval of a professional services agreement with CorrectHealth Cherokee to provide medical, dental and health services to the inmates of the Cherokee County Adult Detention Center in the annual amount not to exceed $1,891,213;
• Consider approval of professional services agreement in the annual amount not to exceed $600,000 to Trinity Services Group to provide a food service program to the inmates of the Cherokee County Adult Detention Center;
• Consider renewing a contract with Consolidated Telecom of Dallas, Texas, for use by the inmates of the Cherokee County Adult Detention Center;
• Consider renewal of contract with A&S Commissary Services LLC, of Stockbridge, for commissary services and equipment for use by the inmates of the Cherokee County Adult Detention Center;
• Consider a 50 percent waiver of the impact fees for the Inalfa Roof Systems project;
• Consider awarding a purchase order in the amount of $52,345 to Utility Associates for 30 vehicle routers for Cherokee County Fire & Emergency Services;
• Consider awarding a purchase order in the amount of $42,536 to CTL for 52 NL 4 tablets for Cherokee Fire & Emergency Services;
• Consider awarding a purchase order in the amount of $102,110 to Georgia Fire and Rescue Supply for 10 thermal imager cameras; and
• Consider approval of a contract renewal for the county’s property and casualty insurance program through Insurance Office of America for coverage by One Beacon in the total amount of $694,390.