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Macon-Bibb audit confirms $2.3 million budget shortfall

Mayor Robert Reichert, right, talks with Commissioner Mallory Jones after a committee meeting to discuss a property tax increase Aug. 9 at the Macon-Bibb County Government Center.
Mayor Robert Reichert, right, talks with Commissioner Mallory Jones after a committee meeting to discuss a property tax increase Aug. 9 at the Macon-Bibb County Government Center. jvorhees@macon.com

There was a $2.3 million shortfall in the Macon-Bibb County fiscal 2018 budget, according to an audit.

The general fund deficit was not surprising for county commissioners who during the budget year began bracing for being $4 million in the hole. The $2.3 million shortfall left the county with about $5 million in its reserve fund, or roughly enough funds to cover 13 days of government operations, according to a report from auditing firm Mauldin & Jenkins.

This fiscal year, which ran from July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018, was the fourth consecutive year the county had to use some of its reserves to balance the budget.

“As we watched this budget year unfold, we were projecting more of a deficit than this,” Mayor Robert Reichert said at Tuesday’s commission meeting.

The original $149.9 million budget was readjusted during the budget year to account for the expected deficit. In October, commissioners were told the figure was closer to $2 million after more revenue than projected rolled in.

About 70 percent of the general fund revenue came from sales and property taxes while public safety accounted for the largest expenditure at 50 percent.

Fiscal 2018’s general fund expenditures were $154.7 million and revenues were $152.4 million. When other government entities are added, such as bonds for capital projects, the county had a net loss of $1 million, the audit report said.

“With about... $260 million in operations, you’re right there at more of a break even point,” auditor Miller Edwards said. “Now, is that where you want to be? That’s up for you all to decide. You have to look at initiatives and what you want to fund in the future.”

The county increased property taxes for the second year in a row in 2018 and the commission continues advocating for an additional sales tax that would be used to rollback the millage rate.

Macon-Bibb may reap some savings this year due to changes in health care plans.

One of the largest challenges facing officials for the next budget year will be covering the $8 million in costs for a fund that covers some benefits such as health care for retirees.

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