Public health not immune to shortages
Public health hasn’t had to contend with construction or facility issues, but the department has also been hurt by the state cuts.
“We are looking at an 8 percent cut in grant money,” Deidra Howell, Liberty County Health Department administrator, said.
She plans to combat the cut by keeping positions unfilled as they become vacant.
As for flu shots, she said the state’s budget issues haven’t affected the number of flu shots available to residents, but the new strains of the illness have.
“The budget hasn’t affected our flu shots, but the flu [specifically the new H1N1 strain] will affect our budget because we’ll have to be out of the office more and won’t be able to provide as many services and that, in turn, will affect our revenue,” she said.
By now it’s no surprise the state is facing budget issues. But as the year wears on, local projects — specifically, construction projects — seem to have ground to a halt due to a lack of state financial assistance.
Board of Education
The Liberty County Board of Education, which, according to Assistant Superintendent Jason Rogers, relies on state funding for 62-63 percent of its budget, recently postponed the construction of a new middle school on Fort Stewart partially because of state funding.
Rogers said after talking with a state facilities consultant during a meeting that is scheduled once every five years, the board decided to put the project on hold and also got bad news about a few other construction projects as they hashed out a five-year facilities plan for the system.
He said traditionally, the state has funded reroofing projects for local schools, but the funding for the current re-roofing application for Lyman Hall has a good chance of being denied.
Overall, the BoE, Rogers said, has lost about $9 million in state funding.
“By everything we’ve been told, it’s not going to get better anytime soon,” Rogers said. “We’re watching every penny that’s being spent.”
The city of Hinesville
Although the city doesn’t rely as much on state funds for its budget as the BoE, it still relies on funds for major road construction and maintenance projects.
Hinesville City Manager Billy Edwards said there are many smaller projects that have been complicated because of lack of state assistance, including phase three of the Memorial realignment project, but one seems to stick out above the rest.
“One of the projects we’re relying on the state for is the road widening of Frank Cochran,” Edwards said. “That has been pushed out even further.”
Edwards said the construction project, which he said now likely won’t see funding until 2014, is vital to accommodating growth in the county.
“It’s desperately needed,” he said.
On the county level, Commissoner John McIver said the commission relies more heavily on Special Purpose Option Local Sales Tax for construction, but the lack of state assistance is still affecting the board as well as residents.
According to McIver, the biggest cut the county has seen is the loss of $650,000 for the homeowner tax relief grant.
“That was cut from our budget and we will not see that revenue from the state,” McIver said.
The loss of these funds will have a direct impact on taxpayers’ bank accounts.
“That exemption now goes away on the digest, so they no longer see an exemption on their bills,” he said.
The state has been pulling back funding for many road projects controlled by other municipalities, which leaves many residents wondering about projects that are completely under the state’s control, including the Highway 196 road project.
Erica Fatima, deputy press secretary for the Georgia DOT, said new projects might not be started, but that the DOT won’t leave any unfinished projects in the area.
“Whatever is started already has funds set aside for it,” Fatima said.