Houston approves $50.1 million budget

WARNER ROBINS -- The Houston County Board of Commissioners approved a $50.1 million general fund budget Tuesday that calls for no tax increase and a 3-percent raise for county employees.

The budget continues the suspension of merit pay increases, which have to be approved by department heads, but at least one commissioner said he would like to see that change.

“I hope at some point we can take the handcuffs off the merit,” said Commissioner Jay Walker.

Including separately funded operations such as the E-911, water, solid waste and the special local option sales tax, the total budget is $110 million.

The general fund budget, however, is largely funded by property taxes. The budget keeps the rate at 9.95 mills, but that won’t be set until the tax digest is finished. The tax digest tells governing bodies what each mill will collect.

The budget projects a $3.77 billion tax digest. Board Chairman Tommy Stalnaker said the county is usually close in its tax digest projection, but even if it is off he said the county has enough in reserve to avoid raising the millage rate.

“We are firmly committed to keeping the millage rate at 9.95 mills,” Stalnaker said. “We have no plans to raise the millage rate.”

The budget calls for no additional positions.

Stalnaker said some departments haven’t increased staff in over a decade, but are serving more people due to growth in the county. He said he does not believe it is harming service because technology has allowed departments to become more efficient.

“There has been more work that has been put on every department and every department has been performing at exceptional levels,” Stalnaker said.

The total budget breakdown is $50.1 million for the general fund, $31.5 million in SPLOST spending, $8.6 million for the internal service fund, $7.5 million for solid waste, $6.2 million for the water fund, $3.8 million for E-911, $1.8 million for the fire district fund, and $695,000 for special revenue funds.

The budget resolution also states no department can spend beyond its budget amount without approval of the commissioners.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.