VALDOSTA -- Lowndes County is expecting to see a more than $2 million increase in its budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The Lowndes County Board of Commissioners spent Wednesday reviewing and discussing its fiscal year 2006 budget, which is expected to be about $40 million.

The budget shows a 6.61 percent increase from the fiscal year 2005 budget, which was $37,631,366 million. According to the budget report, the increase is a result of an increase in the digest, an increase in the Local Option Sales Tax revenue and the use of the reserve for Insurance Premium Taxes.

"We have put together one of the most challenging budgets," said county manager Joe Pritchard. "Without a doubt this is the hardest budget I've put together."

The proposed budget reviewed by county commissioners excludes the current millage rate for incorporated and unincorporated taxpayers.

Pritchard said this is so commissioners could remain conservative with its funds.

"One of the reasons the county has been in as good of financial shape as it is, is because this board and previous boards have been very conservative in expectations of revenue and expenditures," Pritchard said. "We never look at it from the standpoint of an increase first."

By looking at the primary revenues first, Pritchard said commissioners can later consider adding expenditures to the budget after all additional revenue is computed.

Of the projected expenditures in the budget, 48.75 percent of the general fund is proposed for personnel.

Increasing operation funds include money for the jail, parks and local authorities.

The jail operating fund is expected to increase by 1.75 percent from $491,000 to $500,470. A 2.5 percent increase is expected for the operating fund of Valdosta-Lowndes Parks and Recreations. And the county is recommending to increase 5 percent in accommodation excise tax for each authority, which includes the industrial, tourism and airport authorities.

Potential options for increasing the county's budget include changes to the alcohol license fees and implementing a bag system for solid waste management.

Although nothing is complete, finance director Stephanie Black said there is consideration of changes to the alcoholic beverage license to make it more comparable to other governments.

Currently, Lowndes County has a pouring license while most communities have licenses for beer, wine and service.

"Most communities we surveyed separate them all," Black said.

In addition, Black said the county will consider a Solid Waste Management Program for revenue increase. While nothing is official, the recommendation is to institute a bag system for citizens who use collection sites.

Doing this would shift the cost to the actual users of the collection sites, Black said.

"This is going to take some thought on (the commissioners') part," Pritchard said. "This is going to have to be a gradual process of education. We need to take time to consider the amount of time to educate the public."

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