Rising health, fuel, asphalt costs coupled with flat revenues constrain 2009 budget




The following highlights are summarized from county administrator Chris Green’s comments on the 2009 fiscal year budget.

•No COLA. The 2009 budget projects revenues for the coming year to be flat overall, and to decrease in the important gasoline tax category. Because of that, coupled with health care costs that continue to rise, the commission was unable to provide for a cost of living increase for county employees. Employees who have completed their probationary period and are not at the top of the pay scale will receive the 2.5 percent longevity increase provided for the in-step raise plan.

•Health costs approach critical point. $1,396,090 is budgeted for heath insurance in 2009 and an additional $478,843 is allotted to cover prescription drug costs. That total of $1,874,933 represents over 11 percent of the total 2009 budget and an increase of 6.5 percent over last year. The county held the line on health and prescription plan costs and coverages this year; however, the county administrator warns, “Significant changes in the county’s health care program will soon be required unless additional revenues become available to pay these expenses.”

•New hires limited. Although the need for more law enforcement officers is generally recognized, revenues allow for only one additional county employee in the 2009 budget.

•Blount Memorial Hospital Annex. The recently renovated building now houses the coroner’s office and the drug task force in addition to several non-profit organizations including the Hope House. Plans are for the juvenile probation office and the juvenile court to relocate to the building next year. Taking on maintenance, utilities, and security expenses for the location adds significantly to county costs, but will provide courthouse office space expansion in coming years.

•$15 annual tag-fee increase proposal. Skyrocketing costs of fuel and petroleum-based road-surfacing materials have placed a severe strain on the county’s ability to maintain its roads and bridges. The tag-fee increase, if approved by voters in November will provide about $1 million in additional annual revenues. If passed, it will relieve, but not resolve, the road maintenance problem facing the county in the years immediately ahead. If it doesn’t pass, the county will fall further behind in its efforts to improve the condition of roads throughout the area, according to county employees responsible for maintaining them.

•Economic development/retail sales. One solution to the problem of flat or flagging revenues is to stimulate the in-movement and construction of new retail outlets via a planned economic development program. The commission plans to reactivate the county industrial development board and to hire a full-time economic development director. The 2009 budget continues support for both the economic/industrial development function and the Blount County-Oneonta Chamber of Commerce with a total of $153,000 allotted to the two efforts.

•Wet/dry question mark. If the referendum to legalize alcohol sales in the county passes, alcohol and retail sales tax revenues will increase, but the county will forfeit $359,000 in TVA “in-lieu-of-taxes” revenues. Whether increased tax revenues arising directly and indirectly from liquor sales would be sufficient for the county administration’s share of proceeds to exceed its loss of TVA funds remains a topic of debate, but significant budget adjustments to offset any shortfall could be required.

•Light at the end of the tunnel glimmers. The county will pay off its bond debt on the county jail and 1996 road paving projects in 2011. The annual amount of that payment – $507,963 – can then be added to road improvement projects.

FY 2009 Projected Expenditures

Culture and

Recreation Welfare

3%

Education 2%

Debt Service

Less than 1%

3%

Health

2%

General

Government

Sanitation

27%

6%

H’ways/Roads

26%

Total 2009 Expenditures

Public Safety

$17,012,853

31%

FY 2009 Projected Revenues

Miscellaneous

Revenue Charges for

5%

Services

15%

Intergovernmental

26%

Licenses and

Total 2009 Revenues

Permits

$17,156,993

1% Taxes

53%

Major county budget items by expenditure category
General Government • Deputies 2,497,977 Welfare
• County commission office exp. $444,472 • Jail 1,734,377 • County aging program 68,001
• Probate judge office 502,534 • School resource officers 481,931 • Adult day care program 30,606
• Revenue commission 790,043 • Drug task force 259,015 • Public transportation, senior 91,054
• Tax maintenance 552,999 • Volunteer fire and rescue depts. 167,287 • Burial costs for the indigent 1,000
• Blount County Public Transport. 521,893 • Emergency management/E-911 203,537 • Juvenile probation 82,410
• County buildings repair/upkeep 480,558 • Youth services 61,838 • Court-Appointed Special Advocates 1,500
• Maintenance/grounds 287,707 • Coroner’s office 36,078 • Retired Senior Volunteer Program 1,500
• Capital improvement 277,000 • Probation office 2,000 • Children’s Center 27,000
• Personnel dept. 64,806 Total Public Safety Expenses $5,444,061 Total Welfare Expenses $303,071
• Data processing 87,005
• License inspection office 54,413 Highways and Roads Culture and Recreation
• County attorney 72,000 • Dist. 1 road budget (incl. equip.) 827,035 • Palisades Park $268,836
• Board.of registrars 57,086 • Dist. 2 road budget 762,147 • Agribusiness Center 95,186
• Election expenses 66,720 • Dist. 3 road budget 762,147 • Blountsville Library 12,800
• Board of tax equalization 10,100 • Dist. 4 road budget 762,147 • Oneonta Library 19,200
• Training and travel expenses 16,300 • Co-wide road expenses 637,253 • Memorial Museum 20,757
• Court reporters 8,989 • County engineer expenses 497,279 • CAWACO 2,000
• Direct support to agencies • County shop expenses 171,518 Total Culture & Recreation Exp. $418,779
• Economic development office 90,000 • Training and travel 39,550
• Chamber of Commerce 63,000 • Commission admin. expenses 4,600 Education
• Forestry Commission 25,000 Total Highways & Roads Exp. $4,435,075 • Auburn extension service 36,450
• Regional Planning Commission 22,004 • Co. Bd. of Ed. office space 5,000
• Metropolitan Development Board 5,000 Sanitation Total Education Expenses $41,450
• Veterans’ service office 1,900 • Transfer station expenses 972,892 Debt Service
• Soil conservation office 12,100 Total Sanitation Expenses $972,892 • 2003 general obligation bond payment
• Circuit, district court judges 5,370 (refinance of 1996 jail A&B warrants)$507,963
• District attorney 30,450 Health
• Circuit clerk 2,210 • County mental health officer 71,753 Total 2009 Budget $17,012,853
Total Gen. Government Exp. $4,551,659 • Mental health building 13,303
• County animal control program 263,347
Public Safety • Hope House 2,000
• Sheriff’s department expenses Total Health Expenses $350,403

Budget breakdown by county
government departments and major
sub-departmental functions*
Roads $4,435,075
Sheriff’s dept. 4,232,355
Rev. commission/tax maintenance 1,343,042
Landfill (transfer station) 972,892
Buildings and grounds maintenance 802,971
School resource ofcrs./drug task force 740,946
Blount County public transportation 612,947
Debt service 507,963
Probate office 502,534
Covered bridges repair/maintenance 500,000
Co. Commission office 444,472
Capital improvements 277,000
Animal shelter/control program 263,347
Personnel/data processing 151,811
* This breakdown does not include all budgeted expenditures
– only the largest ones, totaling over 90 percent of the budget.

District road budgets 2000; 2006-09
Year Dist. 1 Dist. 2 Dist. 3 Dist. 4 Total
2000 $297,416 305,921 298,476 310,852 $1,212,665
2006 659,754 588,052 588,052 588,052 2,243,910
2007 688,759 630,008 630,008 630,008 2,578,783
2008 798,067 735,393 735,393 735,393 3,004,246
2009 827,035 762,147 762,147 762,147 3,113,476