Valdosta Daily Times

June 19, 2013

Lowndes County facing budget woes

Kay Harris
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — In a brief meeting Tuesday evening, Lowndes County Commissioners and a small audience reviewed a power point presentation compiled by Finance director Stephanie Black, which shows a rather bleak picture for this fiscal year.

According to Black, there is no money to purchase new vehicles or equipment; there will be no additional personnel hired; and there will be no cost of living increase for county employees.

Facing a reduction in revenues from sales and property tax collections, the overall budget for the county for FY2014 is down 7.28 percent from the previous year, to $87,392,529.

County Manager Joe Pritchard stated in a letter to the commissioners that the county had to adopt a “back to basics” approach several years ago in order to keep essential services operating. He states that the reduction in revenues and the demand for more services, along with the increasing cost of doing business, as reasons that the basics approach is more important now than ever.

Taking a look at how the county’s money is spent, 37.7 percent funds public safety, 11 percent to fund judiciary, and 23 percent to fund general government. The county is mandated to pay for all county-wide services,

including the court system, judges, tax commissioner, public defender, animal control, emergency management, coroner, public health, library system, county jail, 911 center, district attorney’s office, board of assessors, and sheriff’s office.

According to Black, the money collected from SPLOST IV is gone, some remains from SPLOST V but is earmarked for specific projects, and there is only one year remaining on SPLOST VI collections, with the money collected this year going only for debt service on bonds.

Despite savings in several areas, including the solid waste disposal expenses, the decrease in tax revenues and increased costs, despite maintaining or decreasing current funding levels for departments and agencies, paints a dismal picture for county government.