GC Commissioners ponder budget

Published 9:05 am Thursday, June 4, 2009

GATESVILLE – Of all the financial figures contained within Gates County Manager Toby Chappell’s 2009-10 budget proposal, the one that carried the most weight was the smallest.

In a special called meeting here Monday morning, Chappell handed over his 25-page budget document to the Gates County Board of Commissioners. Chappell’s proposal calls for an $11.9 million total budget and a 62-cent tax rate (per $100 of property value).

“Sixty-two cents is a little less than what we first thought,” Commissioner Graham Twine said upon thumbing through Chappell’s proposal.

However, it must be noted that Chappell’s numbers are nothing more at this time other than a proposal. The commissioners have scheduled two workshops (1 p.m. on Thursday, June 4 and 10 a.m. on Monday, June 8) in order to further study the budget.

“This meeting (Monday, June 1) was called today only for the purpose of having Mr. Chappell present us the budget,” Board Chairman Henry Jordan said. “We will study this document and will return for our two scheduled workshops to concur or modify the budget proposal.”

In his brief remarks about the county’s proposed 2009-10 finances, Chappell said the $11.9 million total budget was “challenging and lean.” It represents a 5.11 percent reduction from the current (2008-09) fiscal year spreadsheet. Of the total budget, $9,709,064 is earmarked for the General Fund. That proposal is 7.52 percent less than the current year’s General Fund.

Chappell’s budget message noted substantive changes that will alter the landscape of local government for years to come. Among those changes is the trickle down effect the state’s projected $3 billion budget shortfall. To fill that void, state officials are “intercepting” school ADM funds earmarked for all counties as well as state lottery proceeds. That leaves Gates County in a $229,400 hole, money that was earmarked to help pay off the debt associated with a 2006 project to begin renovation of county schools.

Another “hit” on the county coffers is the state’s decision to change a portion of its sales tax revenue from per capita to point of sale distribution. This move hurts small rural counties that lack significant commercial retail contributions to their tax base.

The proposed General Fund is built primarily on ad valorem (property) taxes, projected to generate $5,397,643. Despite public outcry on the current revaluation process in the county, the proposed $5.39 million in property tax revenue is only $239,038 higher than the current year.

The revaluation did increase the property values throughout the county…now estimated at $925 million as compared to the current value of just under $562 million. However, the tax rate is proposed to decrease dramatically, falling from the current 97.5 cents to a possible 62 cents.

Due to revaluation, Chappell noted the revenue neutral rate (based on the $925 million in property value) was 60.8 cents. He added the $925 million figure could possibly change based on the ongoing revaluation appeals process.

Chappell also stressed that his budget proposal does not cut any county positions nor does it require county employees to take furloughs, an issue discussed at an earlier meeting. He did say that two vacant positions within the Planning Department will not be filled.

There are no across the board raises for county employees in the 2009-10 budget proposal.

A public hearing on the proposed new budget is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Friday, June 12 after which time the commissioners can adopt the proposal. Until that time, copies of the budget are available for public viewing in the county manager’s office and on the county’s website.

The new budget is effective July 1.