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County Commission To Review Increased Budget

The proposed fiscal year 2013 budget reflects the county changing its fiscal year to run Oct. 1 to Sept. 30.

A 1.6 percent increase is on tap for the Cherokee County government's proposed fiscal year 2013 budget.

The commission will review the budget on Tuesday during its work session at 3 p.m. and will hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. at the county administration building in Canton. A copy of the proposed budget can be found on the Cherokee County Government Transparency's page.

The budget is set at $193 million, a $3.1 million increase from $189 million when compared between Oct. 1, 2011, and Sept. 30, 2012. However, the county's fiscal year 2012 budget was based only on nine months, and totaled $133.7 million. 

The county's proposed budget is based upon a millage rate of 9.99. Broken down, that's 5.825 for the general fund, 3.394 for the fire fund and .780 for the parks bond. The rate was raised to the current level in July, which is deemed revenue neutral for the county. 

A home valued at about $165,000 with the standard $5,000 exemption would pay about $590 in county property taxes. Most residents saw no property tax increase as most properties either declined in value or saw its value remain the same. 

Highlights from the proposed 2013 budget:

  • Each county department was asked to hold its 2013 budgets to the 12-month annualized 2012 budget.
  • The budget reflects a $1.7 million, or 1.5 percent, decrease in operational expenses, but a $4.9 million increase in capital expenses. County officials attribute the increase to spending remaining revenue on existing projects in the county's previous Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax cycle, beginning projects on the new SPLOST cycle that started in July and $6.6 million capital spending on the Commerce Boulevard extension. The county will be reimbursed by the Georgia Department of Transportation and Northside Hospital for the expenses.
  • Along with the Commerce Boulevard expansion, other capital expenses include a $1.3 million training center for the fire department, a $15 million training center for the Cherokee Sheriff's Office, $600,000 in ambulances and $22 million in roads and bridges spending.
  • The county expects to collect $101 million in property taxes for the proposed budget;
  • New revenue and expenditures slated to start for the county in fiscal year 2013 include the aquatic center under construction on Gresham Mill Parkway and the new Drug Accountability Court slated to start under the Cherokee County Superior Court.
  • For the third consecutive year, the county once again utilized a $1.9 million pension credit.
  • The county used $2.1 million in SPLOST funds to reimburse the general fund for previously purchased assets. Between 2006 and 2011 the general fund spent $3.9M on assets that could have qualified for SPLOST funding. The county in 2011 used $1.8M in SPLOST revenue to reimburse the general fund.
  • The county will have two new departments: the aquatic center and the drug accountability court. The aquatic center will have five full-time and 46 part-time positions while the court will require one full-time position. The new positions for the aquatic center will be paid for by new revenues while the drug accountability court's position will be paid for by the county's DATE fund. 
  • The Cherokee County Magistrate Court will have an additional part-time judge;
  • A new victim witness advocate was allotted in the county's Victim Witness Fund.
  • Twenty-three part-time positions were added for the county's parks and athletics program, which means more employees will work reduced hours and will not be in additional costs to taxpayers.
  • Fleet maintenance reduced headcount by one full-time position due to work force/expense reduction.
  • The county had to make $608,000 in payments from the general fund towards the $18 million bond used to relocate Ball Ground Recycling from land near Holly Springs to property along Highway 5 near Ball Ground; the county has budgeted for a new operator to assume at least 50 percent of the debt service;

The county last year voted to change its budget to run on a fiscal year as opposed to a calendar year. Officials believe operating on a fiscal year budget will allow the county to match current year expenses with revenues, develop a "more transparent" presentation of cash and fund balances and closely align the budget preparation process with setting its millage rate.

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