Politics & Government

4 things you need to know about Macon-Bibb mayor’s 2020 budget

Here’s what you need to know about Macon-Bibb’s proposed FY20 budget

Mayor Robert Reichert of Macon-Bibb County presents his proposed budget for the fiscal year 2020 on Tuesday, May 14, 2019.
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Mayor Robert Reichert of Macon-Bibb County presents his proposed budget for the fiscal year 2020 on Tuesday, May 14, 2019.

Macon-Bibb County’s property tax rate has gone up over the past two years as officials waded through financial difficulties.

Another tax hike won’t be the case this year if Macon-Bibb County Mayor Robert Reichert’s budget is approved. Tuesday, Reichert presented his $164.5 million general fund budget that included no millage rate increase for fiscal 2020.

This year’s budget is about $1.5 million more than what commissioners passed last summer and $10 million higher than the initial fiscal 2018 budget.

However, some adjustments could come over the next month as commissioners hold a series of meetings leading up to a scheduled June 18 vote.

Reichert’s theme was “hold the line” as he detailed how the county must continue to keep a control on expenses.

For the first time in five years, the county is expected to have a surplus at the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

Reichert said there are still some needs not fully covered in his budget, including staffing, pay raises and more capital improvements.

Public safety continues to make up the largest bulk of general fund expenses — at nearly $80 million of the proposed budget.

1. Millage rate staying level

The county’s millage rate is 20.652 after property-tax raises in 2017 and 2018.

Reichert said he’ll advocate for a rollback this year if there is an increase in the tax digest.

Although property values are increasing, some of that revenue has been offset by the motor vehicle tax. However, a change in state law should help bring in more revenue from the vehicle Ad Valorem Title Tax, Reichert added.

Reichert’s budget is based off a projected $80.4 million in property tax revenue. That amount was $56.6 million in FY 2014.

2. Leftover funds

Macon-Bibb County could have more than $5 million in leftover funds to add back into its reserve fund.

It would mark the first time since consolidation in 2014 that county government hasn’t had to dip into the reserves fund to balance the budget.

The reserve coffers, also known as the rainy day fund, dipped to $5 million at the end of fiscal 2018 after being as high as $27 million in 2014.

There have been some higher-than-projected revenues as as well as savings from changes to employee health care plans.

The county is expected to receive roughly $7 more million this upcoming year in franchise fees and insurance premium, hotel-motel and sales taxes compared to FY 2015.

“We’re hoping to have this year to have a positive fund balance increase,” Reichert said. “We hope that next year, FY 20, we can repeat and show the world that we have righted the ship.”

3. No employee raises

There are no cost of living adjustments or pay raises for employees incorporated in Reichert’s budget.

However, the topic is expected to be discussed by county officials before a budget is approved, Commissioner Virgil Watkins said.

The county will undergo a pay scale and job description study to ensure that employees are getting paid appropriately for taking on more responsibilities in future years, Reichert said.

The budget does include adding assistant directors for five county departments: Human Resources, Facilities Management, Parks and Beautification, Recreation and Public Works.

“We also have included in this some help and relief for our directors,” Reichert said. “Many of whom have been working without an assistant director in their department. We know that’s not wise and not good practice.”

The total number of positions in the mayor’s budget is 1,807. That’s roughly the same as the current and previous fiscal years.

There were 2,095 employees when the city and county consolidated.

There also will likely be some retirement plan changes for new employees hired after July 1, Reichert said.

4. Funding for outside agencies

The debate over which agencies get funding could reignite over the next several weeks.

The County Commission may look to avoid last year’s budget fiasco when a last-minute budget approved just before the end of the fiscal year left the library and transit systems, recreation department and various other outside agencies without funding for a short time.

While that funding was restored, there was a reduction in funds for some outside agencies.

Reichert’s new budget would keep funding the same for most agencies. The largest increase would be a jump from $2 million to $2.3 million for the Macon-Bibb County Transit Authority.

Overall, $9.3 million is in the proposed budget for the outside and partner agencies, compared to slightly under $9 million in the current year.

Some outside agencies could benefit from a potential hotel-motel tax increase.

A bill that would make Macon-Bibb’s hotel-motel tax 8% is awaiting Gov. Brian Kemp’s signature.

The additional revenue could be divided up among tourism-related agencies that the county currently provides some financial support for.