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County projects 2% hike in spending
Liberty County's main operations are based in downtown Hinesville. - photo by File photo
When the Liberty County Commission presented a $30 million proposed budget Tuesday all county department heads were standing by to answer questions from citizens.
But there were no questions, and no comments from the public. The commissioners are also hoping there will be no increase in the millage rate.
The commissioners received requests totaling $33.8 million from county departments but trimmed $3.5 million from this, mostly from personnel and capital costs. After the cuts, the proposed budget amounts to a 2.1 percent increase over last year’s budget.
Commission Chairman Donald Lovette said the trimmed down budget represents a kind of Russian roulette: “We keep praying that nothing breaks, but something is going to break.”
Later in their regular meeting, commissioners had to allocate $35,000 to replace a broken air conditioner at the Riceboro gym.
The new budget projects an increase in property tax collections of 3.8 percent over this year, a change of $712,082. The officials are hoping that increase is covered by growth in the value of property in the county.
Commissioner Eddie Walden asked about unpaid property tax and Tax Commissioner Virgil Jones said the collection rate on 2017 taxes was about 95.5 percent and tax payments were still coming in. About 98.3 percent of 2016 taxes have been paid.
It is expected that the commissioners will adopt the fiscal year 2019 budget at their mid-month meeting June 19. The meeting starts at 5 p.m. upstairs in the county annex building.
County finance chief Kim McGlothlin reported on the current year’s status which she said was healthy. The county’s undesignated fund balance of $15 million would allow the county to operate for six months.
McGlothlin pointed out that the juvenile justice budget planned to last through June is already exhausted because of the cost of court reporters. The report, as of the end of April, showed juvenile justice overspent by more than $100,000.
Other overages were caused by the county’s response to events such as the snowstorm in January and Hurricane Irma. The sheriff’s department, the Emergency Management Agency and solid waste disposal had unexpected spending increases because of the weather.
In other business the commissioners continued their efforts to fill a vacancy on the board of the hospital authority caused by the resignation of former Hinesville Mayor James Thomas. The commission had sent the names of two nominees for the seat to the hospital authority, but the authority rejected both.
The commission accepts applications from citizens who want to serve on the various boards, committees, etc., to which they name members. Dana Ingram and Natalie Hines applied for the hospital authority vacancy and the commission sent their names to the authority.
State law governing the hospital authority says the commission will send three names from which the authority can choose one but Ingram and Hines were the only applicants, so only the two names were sent.
The hospital authority gave no reason for rejecting Ingram and Hines, but Lovette, a hospital employee, said that Liberty Regional Medical Center CEO Mike Hester had said that more information could be shared about future appointments.
The county is again publicly seeking people who want to serve on the hospital authority board. The vacant seat is for a term that expires in November 2019. Complete information is available on the county’s website and its Facebook page. Applications will be accepted through June 27.
The commissioners approved two separate zoning variances for property in East Liberty, in one case overturning a Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission recommendation.
Bryan Wolfe received permission to construct a garage on his property at 2173 Fort Morris Road. The commissioners allowed him to build with a 10-foot setback instead of the usual 25 feet. During the deliberations Commissioner Connie Thrift said, “Let people do what they want to do on their own property.” The LCPC had recommended disapproval.
A side yard setback of 10 feet was also approved to allow Jeffery Bowen to rebuild his garage at 4044 Cay Creek Road.

The commissioners held a closed-door session to discuss personnel but no action was taken.

Parker can be contacted by email at

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