December 18, 2012

Whitfield budget may increase in 2013

Jamie Jones
jamiejones@daltoncitizen.com

— The Whitfield County Board of Commissioners is considering a 2013 budget that is almost $2.5 million higher than this year’s budget.

Commissioners on Monday night held the first of two public hearings on next year’s budget, which includes $44.50 million in expenditures and $41.04 million in revenues. The 2012 estimated budget includes $42.05 in expenditures and $40.56 million in revenues.

The gap between revenues and expenses will be made up by the county’s reserves.

The proposed budget is not official until commissioners approve it later this month. Commissioners hold their second and final public hearing on Thursday, Dec. 27.

No departments are receiving large cuts in next year’s budget. Most department budgets are staying flat or increasing by a small amount. The biggest increase in any department is public works, which increases from $5.42 million this year to $7.25 million in 2013. The increase is due to the lack of a Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, which had funded road paving throughout the county.

“All in all, it is what it is,” Commission Chairman Mike Babb said. “I think it would be easier to explain to the citizens, ‘Well, we’re going to spend the same or less than we did last year,’ but we’re going to spend a little more than we did last year. Most of it, like I said, is coming from changes in the public works department.”

The 2013 budget projects property tax revenues of $17.75 million. The 2012 budget includes $15.41 million in property tax revenues. Much of that increase will come in the form of a new 1.5 mill special tax district for non-Dalton residents to fund some county services.

Earlier this year commissioners approved a 1-mill property tax increase. The county’s previous millage rate was 5.061 mills, so the increase translated into a 20 percent increase, or $20 per every $100,000 of assessed property value for a homestead exemption property. The 1-mill increase will bring in about $2.5 million to the county and leave the county with an estimated $2.6 million deficit at the end of the year. The board had advertised a 2-mill increase.

Earlier this month, commissioners approved a $325,000 “holiday bonus” for the 2012 budget. The bonus pay is to be performance-based. The proposed 2013 budget does not include bonus pay, but neither did the approved 2012 budget.