County has $310,000 deficit to cover
The preliminary Grady County tax digest figures indicate the value of the county’s digest dropped approximately 10 percent from last year.
Grady County Administrator Rusty Moye said Friday that Chief Appraiser Susan Bennett had submitted the preliminary digest to him, but it will be Wednesday before the administrator can complete his budget calculations.
County commissioners say they will have to raise the ad valorem millage rate, but county leaders want to keep revenues neutral if at all possible.
Last year, one mill of tax generated $581,119, but with the 10 percent drop in the digest a mill will bring in less revenue.
County Commission Chairman Charles Norton says the board will have to raise the millage rate by just over one mill to generate the same amount of property taxes as last year.
The value of real property dropped $64,055,872 for a total value of $564,625,915.
Moye reports that personal property took a 4.6 percent dive, or down $2,689,165.
The value of motor vehicles in the unincorporated areas of the county increased by nearly $2 million, but the value of motor vehicles in the incorporated cities dropped approximately $709,000.
County commissioners began budget preparations Monday night when they kicked off a three-night series of meetings with constitutional officers and county department heads.
At the first budget session Monday, commissioners heard budget requests from Road Superintendent Yancey Maxwell, Shop Superintendent Larry Hunter, Grady County Sheriff Harry Young and Jail Administrator Captain Tim Gainous.
The majority of requests contain very little more than was funded in the current spending plan.
County Administrator Moye has taken the requests from department heads and constitutional officers and revised the budget to lower expenditures. Even with his cuts, he told commissioners the county faces a $310,000 deficit.
Moye says the county has undesignated funds that could be used to make up that difference, or the commissioners can cut expenses.
The county administrator cautioned the commissioners on becoming too dependent on reserves and pointed out the county will soon have to invest approximately $2 million for upgrades to the county’s communications system and Decatur-Grady 911, as well as debt service on the bonds issued for the construction of Tired Creek lake.
Driving the budget for 2012 is a 14 percent increase in health insurance costs as well as an additional $37,000 to finance elections in 2012, increased overtime for both the sheriff’s office and jail, and $23,000 additional funding for the clerk of courts’ office to cover jury revision costs and board of equalization management.
New vehicles for the road department and sheriff’s office have been requested and the purchase of a new ambulance is being considered.
On Monday night, Moye renewed his call for the commissioners to take action to improve the pay of county workers.
“Gentlemen, we are not paying our people, and a lot of them are hurting,” Moye said. He says that Grady County employees are paid less than any other county in the surrounding area.
County Clerk Carrie Kines shared results of a salary survey she conducted on behalf of Sheriff Young that indicates the county’s pay for deputies is the lowest of any similar sized county in the state.
Chairman Norton asked if the benefits package for employees of the counties surveyed equaled that of Grady County, and the county administrator said the benefits were equal or superior to those offered here.
Commissioner Al Ball agreed that payscales need to be improved, but he said the board had to look at the total workforce and not individual departments or offices.
However, Ball noted that the overall improvement that is necessary would be “big money.”
Moye is not including any raises for county personnel in the 2012 budget, but department heads and constitutional officers are seeking wage improvements for their employees.
Commissioner T.D. David said he is a “great believer in compromise” and he believes the county commission is close to reaching a compromise on wage improvements.
David warned of the consequences of continued lower than market pay including loss of key personnel, low morale and lack of a cohesive team of employees.
Chairman Norton says he sympathizes with county workers, but he said he is equally concerned with taxpayers on fixed incomes who cannot afford to pay higher taxes to pay more to county employees.
Norton pointed to neighboring Mitchell County where the current millage rate is 18 compared to 10.5 for Grady County.
On Tuesday, commissioners heard budget requests from Clerk of Court Debbie Kines, Probate Judge Sadie Voyles, Animal Control Officer Shawn Mobley, Recreation Director Becky Bracewell and Building Superintendent Brian Harrison. A budget request from Chief Magistrate Larry Bearden was submitted for the board’s consideration.
Then on Thursday, the board will hear from Extension Service Agent Deron Rehberg, Code Enforcement Officer Larry Ivy, Registrar Lizzie Garrette, Volunteer Fire Coordinator Wayne Hadden, Tax Commissioner Phyllis Gainous and Chief Appraiser Susan Bennett.
The total budget, as recommended by Moye, stands at $13,332,771. The current year’s budget, which was adopted last year, is $12,680,840.