County commissioners and administrators met Monday for one of several finance-committee meetings to comb through a draft budget for fiscal year 2015, line item by line item. The committee will meet twice more this month.
Liberty County Commission Chairman Donald Lovette, Commissioners Marion Stevens Sr., Justin Frasier and Gary Gilliard, along with County Administrator Joey Brown, Assistant Administrator Bob Sprinkel and County Finance Director Kim McGlothlin, discussed department and constitutional officers’ budget requests for the coming year.
The county’s current 2014 budget is $26,308,753, according to McGlothlin. She said this amount was cut in November 2013.
The county’s original adopted budget for fiscal year 2014 was $26,407,513, the finance director said.
She added that current revenue projections are $25,765,950. But the budget requests that came in for the 2015 fiscal year totaled $29,111,641 — a $3,345,691 shortfall. McGlothlin said this translates into a lot of work for the finance committee over the next several months.
Brown agreed, saying further review of departmental requests would be necessary “due to a current gap (between) revenues and expenditures exceeding
McGlothlin said county leaders begin the annual budget process in February. Budget templates are sent to each department, she said.
“These templates include our current personnel costs and the projected benefit costs,” McGlothlin explained. “We ask for each department to highlight their special-interest items, such as new capital or personnel requests, and other operational line items that have increased from the prior year.”
After department heads submit budget requests in March, the county finance department compiles a budget book detailing requests and offering current and historical financial data on each department, she said. Each department then schedules a time to present its requests to the commission and answer any questions commissioners might have.
Once departmental presentations are finished, the finance committee gets down to work and further examines each budget request, McGlothlin said.
“In every year I’ve been here, the expenditure requests have always exceeded the revenue projections,” she said. “So the board (committee) must determine where and how much to cut. The board will meet several times and go over each department and then will re-look at the projected revenues. It’s a long and tedious process.”
Once the finance committee agrees on a balanced budget, a public hearing is set so taxpayers can offer input, according to McGlothlin. She said a budget hearing tentatively has been set for Tuesday, June 3.
“A copy of the proposed budget will be made available for public inspection in the front lobby of the commission’s office a week prior to the public hearing,” the finance director said. “Final adoption of the budget is scheduled for June 19 and the fiscal year 2015 budget will be put in place prior to July 1 (the start of the new fiscal year). It should also be noted that the proposed budget can change between the time of the public hearing and the final adoption if the board decides such.”
The committee looked at some of the board of commissioners’ expenses pertaining to travel and training. These expenses spiked several years ago, when new faces came on the board and had to attend state-mandated training, they said.
“Everybody is certified right now except for one commissioner,” McGlothlin said.
The committee also considered a request to increase per diem for the board of elections. The chairman currently receives $70 per meeting and each of the seven members gets $58. The board requested that the chairman’s stipend increase to $90 and each member’s to $78. The board of elections holds regular monthly meetings but may meet more often with the upcoming elections, finance-committee members said.
The committee also discussed increasing the board of election’s current $14,000 administrative budget. The board requested a budget of $23,000 for fiscal year 2015, the finance director said. Committee members considered approving a $15,000 budget for the board, an amount that still could change, she stressed.
The board of elections spent $13,920 in fiscal year 2012 and $10,556 in fiscal year 2013, according to McGlothlin. Frasier and Stevens said since this year is an election year, as was 2012 during the presidential race, the board of elections likely is anticipating higher expenses.
The finance committee also reviewed constitutional officers’ budget requests. The commission does not have the authority to tell constitutional officers, such as the sheriff or tax commissioner, how to manage their budgets.
“You either fund what they request, or you don’t fund what they request,” Brown said.