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County not raising taxes

Screven County commissioners are considering a $9.7 million budget that’s $560,000 less than last year and that would not require any property tax increase.

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

It calls for using $258,000 in reserve funds to balance the budget – money that will come from $4 million that was sales-tax money earmarked to build a landfill. Commissioners agreed last December that a landfill is not economically feasible and that the $4 million could be used instead in the county’s general fund.

Jordan called the $4 million a “lifesaver.” “I’m thrilled to death that we were able to find a way to do this without even considering an increase in millage,” he said.

“We don’t believe we’ll have to cut any services or lay off or furlough any employees,” said Stan Sheppard, chairman of the commission. The commission had considered furloughing county employees for one day each month for a year, for a total savings of about $180,000, but decided that was not necessary.

The hospital authority agreed last week to cut 10 percent, or $80,000 from its request for $800,000 from the county, said George St. George, chief executive officer of the hospital. He said the hospital authority has not yet worked out details of how it will cut that much, but said the hospital is committed to helping the county during its budget crunch.

“We’ll find a way to skimp along,” St. George said.

Jordan said the sheriff is going to try to get along without any new vehicles. He said if a patrol car dies, the county will have to figure out a way to replace it.

The moratorium on capital expenditures won’t affect construction of the county’s new animal shelter, which is being paid for with sales-tax funds.

If the budget is approved as drafted, the county will not increase property taxes. But homeowners who filed for a homestead exemption last year will have to pay an additional $206 this fall. That’s because state lawmakers have done away with that exemption.

The commission has a public hearing scheduled on the budget at its regular meeting at 9 a.m. on Tuesday in the county courthouse. The commission will consider adopting the budget at its regular meeting at 7 p.m. on June 23, also at the courthouse.