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Commission talks budget ahead of millage-rate hearings
County scheduled to adopt increased tax rate at Dec. 2 meeting
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The Liberty County Board of Commissioners heard a financial report from county Chief Financial Officer Kim McGlothlin at its mid-month meeting Thursday.

According to McGlothlin, the county is “collectively on-target” with regard to expenditures as of Oct. 31. She said that the county has approximately 2.5 months’ worth of undesignated, unreserved funds — down just slightly from the 3.3 months’ worth the county had at the same time last year.

She said that number could dip even lower in November and December, which typically are the lowest months in regard to fund balance. McGlothlin explained that the budget sometimes appears skewed because individual departments do not spend exactly 1/12th of their budgets each month.

McGlothlin also clarified that the “fund balance” is not cash.

“(Fund balance) is the residual after all of your liabilities have been resolved, and those assets that you have remaining are either cash or will be converted into cash,” she said.

Talk turned to the recent failure of the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax referendum after Commission Chairman Donald Lovette expressed the board’s desire to “beef up” the fund balance.

“Of course, that thought came with the inclusion of having a SPLOST sales tax to help cover our entire budget,” he said. “Now we’re going to have to regroup.”

McGlothlin said the county’s general budget now will have to support all capital items, including public-safety vehicles that traditionally have been provided for by SPLOST.

“SPLOST has always helped relieve the tax burden on the citizens by providing for capital items,” she said. “We keep hearing out there, ‘SPLOST is supposed to lower taxes.’ It has kept taxes lower by that relief … and now that relief is gone.”

The county is scheduled to adopt the new millage rate at its Dec. 2 meeting. Three public hearings will be held prior to the adoption, at 6 p.m. Nov. 24 and at noon and 5 p.m. Dec. 2.

According to the public notice published in last Sunday’s Courier, the county is considering an increase of 2.029 mills for unincorporated areas, 1.839 mills for Hinesville and 1.835 mills for all other municipalities.

“It’s a difficult decision for any board to have to increase property taxes, but when property taxes are more than 50 percent of your general-fund revenue, and now you have significant capital requirements that have to be borne by that, it’s a tough decision,” McGlothlin said.

Lovette and McGlothlin also speculated that there is a general misunderstanding of SPLOST’s objective among the public.

“The general public does not understand or have the full comprehension of what we’re doing as governmental bodies,” Lovette said. “We’re not just throwing money away or spending frivolously.”

“I don’t think they completely understand the … unfunded mandates that you’re charged with, and the services that you’re charged with providing that don’t produce enough revenue in and of themselves to operate,” McGlothlin added. “Whether we, as a citizen, use that service or not, that’s not the point.

“I’ve never spent a night out at the jail, but I’m glad it’s there, and I’m glad we fund it.”

Other business

The commission heard a project status report from county engineer Trent Long.

Long said that bids had been received for the Curtis Road and Ruben Wells Road project. He said the low bid came from Ellis Wood Contracting Inc. in the amount of $738,755.25. The commission unanimously approved a motion to accept the bid.

The board also unanimously approved a water-conservation plan, as presented by Matthew Barrow of P.C. Simonton and Associates Inc.

According to Barrow, the plan is required as a part of the application to draw water from the ground. The application relates to the county’s new water-distribution system, which is nearly complete.

Barrow said it was a “relatively generic plan,” with a few updated details.

The commission also approved the appointments of the following people to the Board of Elections: Steve Mullis; Russell Wells; Sam Harris; Stephanie Woods; and Linda Martin, who was the only new appointment.

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