The Whitfield County Board of Commissioners will continue into 2010 the deficit spending it began this year.

Commissioners had their first look at the county’s 2010 budget on Monday night. It includes expenditures of $45.1 million and $40.4 million in revenues and includes pulling $7.1 million from the county’s reserves. In 2009, the county had $43.8 million in expenditures and $41.6 million in revenues. This year, the county is taking $3.7 million from its reserves.

At the beginning of the year, the reserve balance was $26.5 million. The county’s reserve balance will be $13.3 million at the end of next year.

Commission chairman Mike Babb said the county will face a “day of reckoning” if it continues deficit spending, either in reduced services or cutting workers. Finance director Ron Hale said the county could afford to continue the deficit spending into 2011.

Commissioners will vote on the budget later this year.

“This is going to be a slower recovery period than what we’ve been used to with previous recessions,” Hale said.

Funding for most county departments remained at 2009 levels, Hale said. The sheriff’s department and jail is expected to receive $12.4 million in 2010 compared to $12.5 million in 2009. Sheriff Scott Chitwood said he didn’t expect any major changes in next year’s budget.

“We’re prepared for 2010 to work off the same budget as we did last year,” Chitwood said.

The fire department is budgeted to receive $4.6 million in 2010, about $3,400 less than this year. There will also be fewer roads paved. The Georgia Department of Transportation will give the county $260,000 next year instead of the $1.3 million it received this year.

The county is “holding the line” on personnel, Hale said.

The budget includes possible one-day-a-month employee furloughs. But commissioners will make decisions about furloughs only after monitoring sales figures early in the year. If the furloughs begin in April they could save the county $750,000.

The county will relax a hiring freeze began this year, allowing departments to hire workers as spots become available by turnover. However, 12 full-time and five part-time jobs will continue to be unfilled, including eight full-time positions in public works and two full-time jobs in the sheriff/jail departments. Those unfilled positions will save the county $600,000. There will be no performance or cost of living raises for the second straight year, which will save the county $900,000. All promotions will be voluntary and will not include pay increases. The budget does not include longevity pay ($334,920) or vacation buyback pay ($478,846).

The 2010 budget also includes $6.4 million in building projects. Almost $2 million of the building budget will go towards construction of Westside Park.

The county is taking an unexpected hit when the first 20 percent of the freeport exemption, passed last year by voters, goes into effect in 2010. County officials believed the 20 percent reduction in inventory tax would cost the county about $200,000. Newly revised figures show that cost will be about $400,000. If commissioners take the freeport exemption to 100 percent in four years (in 20 percent increments), the county will be out $2 million.

Despite the financial hit, commissioner Harold Brooker said the freeport exemption is needed to attract businesses and compete with neighboring counties such as Catoosa and Gordon.

“2010 is going to be the biggest hurt, but we’re hoping we pull out of this recession,” Brooker said.

React to this story:


Recommended for you