With plans to present a proposed budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year, Macon County Manager Derek Roland has been working to finalize each respective county department’s budget. County commissioners gave the new manager one directive entering the planning process: To hold taxes and establish a budget that reflects no tax increase.
“Currently I am in the final stages of preparing the recommended budget which I will present to the commission on Tuesday, May 13,” said Roland. “All departmental requests, as well as those from outside agencies have been submitted.”
Roland made sure to emphasize the importance of keeping a flat tax rate to each department head and with days left before he has to present to commissioners, Roland believes he has developed a budget that not only holds taxes, but reflects a value that is around $1 million less than the current year’s budget. “My recommended budget will be $1.6 million less than last year’s original budget as well as less than actual expenditures in 2013,” said Roland. “The proposed budget, while addressing many needs, was developed with the purposeful attempt of stabilizing the county’s fund balance position and preparing for the forthcoming revaluation which will become effective on Jan. 1, 2015.”
Roland worked with department heads and county employees to begin evaluating the needs of the county and ensuring that all necessary services are fully funded. Anything that is considered supplemental services will be closely evaluated in an attempt to lower the budget. The revaluation leaves the county in an uncertain financial state, and with that understanding, Roland wanted to deliver a budget that not only reflected that, but began to help the county brace for it.
“My recommended budget is representative of the level of service the county is capable of providing using only projected revenues,” said Roland. “This equates to no tax increase as directed by the commission at our Jan. 25, 2014 budget retreat, and furthermore uses no money from fund balance for operating expenses.”
During his budget planning, Roland closely reviewed the county’s fund balance to ensure that the county was utilizing taxpayer dollars as efficiently as possible.
“Since FY ’11-’12 the fund balance has declined by 14 percent,” said Roland. “With this decline however, the county has been able to fund many capital projects such as the purchase of Parker Meadows Recreation Park property, renovations to the pool facilities in Franklin and Highlands, airport improvements, and $1.5 million of improvements to the Highlands K-12 School; just to name a few. In accomplishing the aforementioned notable projects, our fund balance is still above the state average (25 percent) as well as the average of counties similar to our size (27 percent) at 29 percent.”
Going into Tuesday night’s meeting with commissioners, Roland is confident that departments, along with the diligence of department heads, have established a budget that will be for the betterment of Macon County residents.
“As we head into the revaluation and the uncertainties that come with it, I feel it is crucial we preserve our fund balance as it directly impacts our credit rating, allows us to prepare for unexpected emergencies, and provides a safety net when revenue streams decline,” said Roland. “The proposed budget keeps the fund balance at 29 percent for FY ’14-’15.”
Last year’s original budget was $47,145,470, and according to Roland, although the budget will be substantially less than last year’s, no cuts were made that will impact the high quality level of service which Macon County citizens are accustomed to receiving from the local government.
“I would like to thank the county employees for the sacrifices they have made and their willingness to work with myself and our finance department during this budget process,” said Roland. “I can assure all citizens of Macon County that our local government is made up of individuals that place the highest value on public service. It is an honor to serve with each and every one of them.”