By the numbers
• $5,883,839: LCDA budget for fiscal year 2012.
• $3,471,313: Amount this year’s budget was trimmed from last year’s $9,355,152 general fund operations budget.
• $1,344,775: Amount the LCDA received in federal grants.
• 4: Number of LCDA members who voted to adopt the budget.
• 1: Number of members who voted against adopting the budget.
In a 4-1 vote Tuesday, the Liberty County Development Authority adopted its $5,883,839 budget for fiscal year 2012. This coming year’s budget was trimmed $3,471,313 from this past year’s $9,355,152 general fund operations budget. LCDA’s fiscal year is from July 1-June 30.
Authority members Al Williams, Brian Smith, Robert Stokes and John McIver voted for the proposed budget. Paul Krebs voted against the budget and Jim Thomas and LCDA Chairman Allen Brown were not present for the vote. Thomas, the mayor of Hinesville, attended the annual Georgia Municipal Association convention in Savannah earlier this week. Brown left the lengthy meeting to have eye surgery, returning shortly after the vote was taken.
LCDA Director of Finance Carmen Cole led members through the finalized draft budget line item by line item, striving to answer their pointed questions and keep her composure when the discussion got heated.
Members agreed that the $1,344,775 in federal grants the LCDA received — from the U.S. Economic Development Administration and Office of Economic Adjustment for the 5th Brigade remediation — helped balance the budget and ease the burden of making further cuts.
Cole said the finance committee overestimated expenses and underestimated revenues to come up with a conservative budget, making cuts where necessary. Still, authority members said more painful cost-cutting measures will need to be taken when drafting a budget for fiscal year 2013.
Cole told the authority that an LCDA employee will be leaving this fall. Some members suggested the LCDA not fill the position and shift that worker’s responsibilities to other LCDA staff.
“Is (the position) critical?” McIver asked, referring to the worker’s responsibilities, which deal with day-to-day financial operations. Members asked LCDA Executive Director Ron Tolley and Cole to re-evaluate the necessity of filling the soon-to-be-vacant position.
There also was spirited discussion about the 100 percent benefit coverage LCDA provides its six full-time employees. Williams said most public and private employers have scaled back on workers’ benefits because of the country’s new financial reality. This measure is due solely to economic necessity, he said, and does not reflect negatively on employees’ performance.
“This is not a time to reward anybody, even superstars,” Williams said. “Business is bad; it’s a fact of the economy.”
Authority members commented that LCDA must be more fiscally prudent and agreed to “put everything on the table” when planning next year’s budget.
“If we don’t do it, we might have to someday tell someone they don’t have a job,” Williams said.