The Newnan Times-Herald

Local

Nobody shows up for budget public hearing


  • By Sarah Fay Campbell
  • |
  • Sep. 11, 2019 - 6:34 AM

Nobody shows up for budget public hearing

The Newnan Times-Herald

County Administrator Michael Fouts

Coweta County’s fiscal year 2020 budget was presented at a public hearing Thursday night, but no members of the public showed up to hear about it. 

The county’s fiscal year 2020 starts Oct. 1 and the budget is set to be voted on at the Sept. 17 Coweta County Board of Commissioners meeting. 

The proposed countywide FY 2020 budget is $109,064,061, which includes a general fund budget of $83,170,603. 

That’s an increase over last year of 5 percent – from $104 million – in the total budget and 7 percent, from $77.8 million in the general fund.

Revenues for the general fund come primarily from property taxes and sales taxes. Other funds, such as the fire fund and 911 fund, get their money from specified sources, including the fire district tax and the 911 fee added to phone bills. 

The general fund budget is based on the county taking the “rollback millage rate,” which brings in the same property tax revenues on existing properties as last year’s rate. New growth throughout the county will bring in an additional $2.9 million in property tax revenue this year. 

Forecasters are also projecting a $1.4 million increase in the Local Option Sales Tax, a $1 million increase from changes to the way vehicle tag taxes are shared between the state and the county, an $800,000 increase money the county receives through insurance premium taxes, a $400,000 increase in state court fines and fees and a $350,000 increase in per diem pay for state inmates at the Coweta County Prison. 

The county will also see less expense paying for School Resource Officers, as the Coweta County School System is set to pick up 65 percent of SRO salaries this year, over 50 percent last year. 

The county is seeing a decrease in the amount of money coming into the ambulance fund, said County Administrator Michael Fouts. There is less reimbursement from patients and insurance, and that’s related to the healthcare market as well as the “payer mix,” Fouts said. 

There is a proposal to increase the hotel/motel tax from the current 5 percent to 8 percent, and that will bring in more revenue for “tourism product development,” which can include parks and recreation and cultural attractions. 

Primary drivers of increased expenditures include $1.5 million in employee raises, $400,000 to cover health insurance for county employees, $800,000 for new employees, a $500,000 increase in pension fund contributions, a $700,000 contribution to the current retirement plan, a slight increase in insurance premiums and an increase in overtime for fire, EMS and the Coweta County Sheriff's Office, Fouts said. 

Public safety, including CCSO and EMS, but not the fire department, takes up 45 percent of general fund revenues. General government is second, with 19 percent, and the court system is third, with 13 percent of the general fund. 

Capital projects are 3 percent, public works is 9 percent, recreation and library is 9 percent and housing and development is 4 percent. A significant number of the county’s capital and public works projects are paid for with the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax instead of general fund revenues. 

The budget process begins in May when department heads and elected officials submit their budget requests – including operating budgets, new personnel and capital projects - for the year. 

Fouts said this year there were requests for 39 new full time and seven new part-time positions in various county departments. County staff has recommended approving 17 new full-time positions and six part-time positions. 

They include 10 full time and three part time positions in public safety – six at the CCSO, two at the prison, three for adult probation, one for animal services and one paramedic for the Coweta Cares mobile integrated healthcare unit. 

Also recommended are a new person in the GIS department, additional hours for a 4-H program assistant, a full time employee at the airport, a full time magistrate judge and part time administrator in the solicitor's office, a new facilities management position, two new IT positions including one dedicated to the sheriff’s office, and one full time and one part time person in the community and human resources department. 

Included in the presentation was an overview of the number of employees per capita in some counties similar to Coweta. Coweta County has 910 full time positions, 6.24 employees per 1,000 residents, Fouts said. 

Cherokee County, with 254,149 residents, has 5.39 employees per 1,000 residents. Hall County, with 202,148 residents, has 8.41 employees per 1,000 residents, and Columbia County, with 154,291 residents, has 8.61 employees per 1,000 residents. 

“It certainly varies throughout the state,” Fouts said of the employees per capita. “I believe our employees do a lot with less,” he said. “I think we’ll be good stewards with these positions.” 

The county’s proposed expenditures for FY 2020 are higher than the projected revenues, with a difference of $287,039. The difference will come from withdrawals from the “fund balance” in some of the various special funds, said Fouts. There are no plans to draw money from the general fund fund balance. 

The budget doesn’t include money for road work and other transportation projects. That’s because transportation projects are funded through the current Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax and money that Coweta gets from the state, according to Fouts. Coweta gets approximately $1.6 million each year in “Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant” money from the Georgia Department of Transportation. LMIG grants are funded by the state-wide gasoline tax.

A goal in the budget is to maintain a fund balance reserve of 15-20 percent of the general fund budget, which can cover about three to four months of county operations in an emergency. The county’s current general fund balance is $14,519,577, with the balance rising to $16,700,000 by the end of FY 2020 under the proposed budget.

The budget includes $2.75 million in capital projects from the general fund, including a $750,000 IT upgrade, $840,000 for facilities management projects such as roof and HVAC repairs, nearly $500,000 in capital projects for the prison, work release center and animal services and adult probation, $112,000 for replacement vehicles and survey equipment for public works, $328,500 in recreation for field crowning and laser grading and tennis court resurfacing, and $122,306 for housing and development including aerial imagery, technology upgrades and a vehicle. 

Budget documents can be viewed on the county’s website, www.coweta.ga.us