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County holds off on approving fiscal year 2025 budget
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Liberty County commissioners will wait to approve their budget for the coming fiscal year.

Commissioners unanimously voted to adopt a continuing resolution for the first 90 days of fiscal year 2025, which begins July 1, and will hold the county’s spending at its current fiscal year 2024 limits.

Commissioners have been looking at a draft budget of $61.8 million, a 6.7% increase over the current fiscal year budget. Department heads and constitutional officers presented spending requests totaling $66.8 million.

“Everybody in my district has felt the pinch,” said Commissioner Eddie Walden, who pushed to have the continuing resolution adopted. “My feeling is to hold off (approving the budget) as long as we can.”

Commissioners also discussed the apparent confusion some residents have had with their property appraisals and the estimated tax bills that are on those. A state law required an estimate of what a property owner’s tax bill might be to be placed on the assessment notices, County Administrator Joey Brown said. That law has been repealed, but the effective date did not include the current assessment notices.

“Nine times out of 10, property owners did not end up paying what was on the bill,” he said. “(I was) disappointed it was not repealed for this because it is very misleading.”

Brown also informed commissioners that chief assessor Glenda Roberts said the state warned her office that if values did not increase, they would enact a per parcel penalty on the county.

“They were forced to go up on market rates to meet the state guidelines,” he said.

By law, property reassessments take place every three years, Brown pointed out. Also, the county has to have a budget in place by July 1 but commissioners can adopt a continuing resolution that essentially holds in place spending and revenues.

“We would only pay the financial obligations we’ve got to pay,” he said. “We basically would run status quo for 90 days.”

The county can adopt its FY25 budget before the 90 days of the continuing resolution are up, Brown added, and he expects the digest to be presented during that time. Commissioners set the millage rates, which then lead to the property tax bills, once they have the digest.

Brown said he did not expect any new sources of significant revenue or expenses over the next 90 days.

“I know we’ve had new growth and we’re going to have more new growth,” Walden said. “But that’s my suggestion — hold the line.”

The recreation department is scheduled to get two new athletic coordinators, but those were scheduled to start January 1. The department had asked for three, chief financial officer Samantha Richardson noted.

“They have been shortstaffed for a while,” Commissioner Justin Frasier said. “I’m not in favor of us to push that down the hill again.”

Frasier added he asked for additional money for the county’s youth commission and youth activities. While the inaugural summer youth employment program had 36 teens involved, this year, there was only money for 21.

“Now we’re going backward,” he said.

Frasier repeated his call for ways to bring more commercial growth into the county. Commissioner Marion Stevens also asked commissioners to look at how much property tax industries in the county are generating.

“We need to make sure the industries here are paying their fair share,” he said. “That would make a big difference.”

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