Forsyth County's budget still $4.8M short

Preliminary budget shows more chopping needed

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FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Possible ways to further balance the $93.6 million preliminary budget, which is short about $4.8 million, include moving some items to the capital outlay fund.

At their work session June 11, Forsyth County Finance Director David Gruen said this is the challenge for the Board of Commissioners, to decide what they think should be funded and whether items can be moved to the capital outlay fund.

By moving some budgeted items to the capital outlay fund would take pressure out of the general fund.

“We want to be careful to do that to an extent that is sustainable,” Gruen said. “In other words, if we move replacement vehicles there or replacement equipment, that’s going to occur every year. It’s a ‘one time’ expense as far as a piece of equipment is concerned; in reality we have ongoing replacement needs.”

General fund dollars pay for ongoing expenses such as salaries and benefits, as well as supplies including papers and pencils. Capital outlay dollars pay for facilities — buildings, remodeling and renovations and can include items like vehicles, lawnmowers and furniture.

Gruen said the county’s finance department will work on a proposal, which will be presented to board members in a week.

The final adoption of the budget takes place in October.

A state pool funding for equipment such as software purchases and capital is also available, Gruen said.

But Commissioner Todd Levent said the county doesn’t need to borrow money.

Last year’s general fund expenditures was about $91 million, and the same service next year, a preliminary comparison projects the budget expenditure at $94 million, a 3.4 percent increase, while the projected 2014 revenue is $95 million, a 4.81 percent increase.

There are a few new items added to the budget, including new courthouse, jail and animal shelter operations.

And although a new millage rate has not yet been set, last year’s maintenance and operations was at 6.78 mills, lower than neighboring counties, including Hall 7.9 mills; Dawson 8.13 mills and Cherokee 9.21 mills.

Commissioner Jim Boff asked Gruen what he thought the outlook for sales tax revenue or the local option sales tax (LOST) would be for the coming year.

“Based on where the economy is going, seems like we’re still growing pretty well,” Gruen said.

Last year, Gruen said, the economy and housing appeared to be recovering. New shopping centers, including a new Costco in north Forsyth and a Walmart in south Forsyth will boost sales tax collection.

In the first four months of this, the county was up about 5 percent in collections.

“I think our prospects are good for LOST,” Gruen said. “We’re optimistic.”