The Liberty County Commission plans to adopt a $35 million fiscal year 2021 annual budget at its June 18 meeting. The proposed budget was presented and discussed last week in person and via Facebook.
Officials have trimmed almost $6 million in budget requests; Sheriff Steve Sikes agreed to hold his department’s spending to the current fiscal year’s level with no increase for the 12 months starting in July.
The new county budget represents an increase of almost $3 million over the FY 2020 budget, growth of 8.5 percent.
Commissioner Eddie Walden asked if the new budget would require the commissioners to hike the tax millage rate. Chief Financial Officer Kim Mcglothlin said, “We may be able to hold the millage rate.” McGlothlin said the COVID-19 pandemic was unprecedented and its effects remain largely unknown.
The new budget is based on the best estimates available, McGlothlin said. The largest revenue
change projection is in general property taxes where an increase of a little more than 11 percent is forecast, amounting to $2.4 million.
The county’s tax digest plays an important role in budget planning, but the system in state law requires officials to adopt a budget before current tax digest information is available. “We’re not even sure the digest will support what’s here,” McGlothlin said.
Commission Chairman Donald Lovette said that the public invests in taxes to reap dividends, ”We did not expect a pandemic, but the investment is still good. It may just take a little longer to realize it. We may be down but we’re not out.”
The commissioners did not cut the plan for countywide fire protection by building fire stations and employing 18 full time professional firefighters to provide 24/7 coverage for the county. The new Isle of Wight fire station is nearly complete, County
Administrator Joey Brown said.
The commissioners heard from Krystal Hart, census coordinator, on the status of the count. The final date to be counted is Oct. 31, she said. The census can be completed by telephone at 1-844-330-2020 or online at www.2020census.gov. Door-to-door census taking is scheduled to begin in August.
As of June 1 Liberty County’s census was 50.3 percent complete. This is below the state figure of 65.7 and the national one at 60.6 percent.
The commissioners adopted a resolution to receive airport funding under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Brown said the expected funding was $30,000.
Email Parker at joeparkerjr@hotmail. com.