2009-12-31 / Front Page

County Adopts General Budget

No new county taxes in store for 2010; public comments divided
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz STAFF WRITER

The Fulton County Board of Commissioners has received a plethora of comments from the general public in recent weeks on their tentative plans for the 2010 general operating budget.

Ironically, the 12 comments lodged with the commissioners since the tentative budget was placed on public display on December 8 appear to be divided into two categories.

According to county clerk Daniel Swain Jr, one-third of comments on the budget involved kudos to the commissioners for their decision to restrain the cost of government by cutting outside agency allocations.

On the flip side, Swain noted, the remaining two-thirds of comments given by the public dealt strictly with the commissioners’ plans to reduce the Fulton County Library’s annual allocation by 50 percent.

Library officials had requested an allotment of $20,000 for 2010 from the county, which represented a $5,000 increase from the current year. Budget reports show the library will actually be receiving $7,500.

Library Director Jamie Brambley and several longtime members of the library’s Board of Directors attempted to sway the commissioners’ decision prior to budget adoption this week, but, along with other organizations deemed as falling outside of the county umbrella, were informed all agencies would see a cut of at least 50 percent.

For the library, though, the reduction will be larger than 50 percent as the local allocation from municipalities and the county has a direct bearing on how much funding is streamed to the local library by the state.

Other agencies under scrutiny and to receive notably less funding from the county next year include Fulton County Extension Office, Fulton County Conservation District, Fulton County Medical Center, Area Agency on Aging, Fulton County Chamber of Commerce, Fulton County Parks and Recreation Commission and Fulton Industrial Development Association.

With comments logged, the commissioners’s plans for a balanced budget fell slightly short of the mark on Tuesday when a unanimous nod of approval was given to a budget that lists expenditures at $6,481,502 and revenues at $6,225,291. According to business manager, Tim Stanton, the county was able to cut expenditures within by another $26,216 in the interim between the time the preliminary budget was presented and the final budget was adopted. The county saved $19,000 of that sum by seeing a decrease in worker’s compensation insurance premiums. The remainder of the shortfall will be made up from reserves from prior years, Stanton said.

Accompanying the adopted 2010 budget will be occupation taxes at 20 mills and real estate taxes at 10 mills, both remaining steady and unchanged from current rates.

County Commissioner David Hoover II was unable to attend the December 29 meeting where the budget was addressed. He telephoned the office to participate in the 3-0 unanimous decision.

Stanton and the commissioners revealed earlier this month public safety was the expenditure to see the largest increase, which totalled 16 percent. The jump is as a result of an increase in prisoners and related costs.

In spite of the jump, salaries and benefits continue to be the top expense for Fulton County. Salaries and benefits comprise an estimated 54 percent of the overall budget.

“The 2010 budget process was a challenge to all counties as a result of the current economy and the budget actions of the state in how they handled their 2009-10 budget process,” said the commissioners in a budget summary released previously through business manager Stanton.

“To date, the state continues to underfund some programs based upon funding levels from previous years. When this occurs then counties normally respond with either reducing expenditures or a millage increase.”

“In preparing the 2010 budget, department managers were informed that if their 2010 budget expenditures exceeded the 2009 budget, then justification was needed for the cost increase,” the commissioners concluded.

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