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Commissioners on verge of balancing budget without use of reserves

Screven County Commissioners have not only crafted a budget that won’t require a tax increase – they’re shooting for balancing the budget without dipping into reserves.

They have reserves available -- sales tax money that was earmarked for a landfill. They decided in December that building a landfill is not economically feasible and that the $4 million instead could be used in the county’s general fund.

As of last week, they were $258,000 short of balancing the budget. Rather than do such things as lay off or furlough employees, they could use reserves to make up the difference.

But during the last week, revised revenue estimates and additional cuts have whittled that $258,000 deficit down to $55,000. The change is due to such things as increased revenue from delinquent taxes, a cut of $40,000 to the Health Department and an additional $12,500 from the City of Sylvania to pay for a 911 dispatcher, Commissioner Roland Stubbs said.

Commissioners have two more weeks before they consider adopting the budget – at their regular meeting at 7 p.m. on June 23 at the county courthouse. During that time, their goal is to whittle that $55,000 down to zero.

 “It’s still a work in progress,” Stubbs said at Tuesday’s commission meeting. “We are considering several other things which would help our situation. … We’ll be prepared to present a balanced budget at our next meeting.”

They want to save the reserves for tough times ahead. They already have had to dip into that $4 million pot. The reserve is down to $3.2 million, County Manager Rick Jordan said.

The overall budget commissioners are proposing for next year is $9.7 million, down $605,000 from last year.

The draft being considered includes no capital expenditures for such things as vehicles or buildings. It also includes no furloughs, layoffs or raises and it doesn’t cut services.

“It’s amazing we may be able to pull this thing off without having to cut any services,” said commission Chairman Stan Sheppard. No residents showed up to speak about the proposed budget at a public hearing held during the commission meeting on Tuesday.

In other action Tuesday, the commission agreed to move dumpsters at Blue Springs about one-half mile from their current location at the bottom of the park to the top of the hill. More than 20 residents had signed a petition asking that the dumpsters be moved so they would be farther away from houses.

Commissioners also agreed to spend $12,800 from the current budget’s contingency fund to conduct a drought study. The report should result in lower insurance premiums for residents of Newington and Oliver and lay a foundation for the county to build new fire stations.