Bibb County Commission approves budget

Lamenting a lack of options, Bibb County commissioners united to approve an $87.2 million budget Thursday that will draw $4.9 million from the county’s reserves.

Thursday morning, commissioners discussed methods they thought might improve the county’s finances -- including both rejecting and approving consolidation -- before voting unanimously for the budget.

No member of the public spoke at Thursday morning’s budget hearing, nor did any speak at last week’s.

Commissioners have said they won’t increase the millage rate.

Four commissioners lamented their inability to lessen the amount of money they’re taking out of reserves.

“Obviously, there weren’t any realistic options that we could have considered,” Commissioner Lonzy Edwards said.

Commissioner Elmo Richardson said the county planned to pull $2.4 million from its financial reserves in the current budget, but instead added money back into the reserve fund.

“I feel comfortable with the budgeting of the $4.9 million. Also, we’ve got a little unknown territory here, given that we’re taking over five departments from the city of Macon,” Richardson said.

Allen said the shortfall was a sign that the county needed to do things differently and needed to consolidate governments with Macon. Edwards, however, said consolidation would cost money.

The budget approved Thursday is about 3.9 percent higher than the current year’s budget. Some of the changes were driven by the county’s taking over of five Macon departments, which added expenses and, because of how recreation is added, hit at revenues.

The first full year of a pay scale adds $1.25 million in expenses.

The county also expects about $1.7 million less in real and personal property taxes, about $2 million more in capital outlay expenses and $1.1 million additional for workers’ compensation.

Savings shown in the budget include $725,000 for a line item for traffic safety and about $1.8 million in debt service payments. Much of the county’s debt service -- both principal and interest -- is getting covered by money from a special purpose local option sales tax. That SPLOST also is covering capital expenses, such as patrol cars, that would otherwise have hit the county’s general fund.

The use of $4.9 million from the fund balance would use about one-sixth of the county’s financial reserves, now projected to reach $31.4 million by June 30, the end of the fiscal year.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.