Barrow County is down to the wire on its FY2010 budget, which begins Oct. 1. Monday night, the Barrow County Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing and is then scheduled to vote on a final budget plan.
But that’s just the beginning. After adopting a budget, the BOC will have to find a way to live within its limits and make sure its revenue projections are accurate.
That’s no easy task. On the revenue side, the BOC has little control once the tax rate is set. Assuming the board doesn’t raise the millage rate, it will have to live on revenues over which it has no control — sales taxes, fees, fines and other smaller sources that vary by economic conditions.
One area of concern in the projected revenues is with the anticipated tax liens from upcoming sales. The county is counting on a lot of money from those liens; a more conservative estimate is probably in order.
On the expense side, the county does have control and that is where the BOC should be most aggressive. While the county did a lot of cost-cutting in 2009, it may need to make additional cuts in FY2010. The Barrow County area has been hard hit by the recession; the unemployment rate and foreclosure rate is high. While the national media talks about a current recovery, that doesn’t seem to apply to Northeast Georgia which is still suffering.
The point is, there could be more pain to come for county employees if revenues lag. The county has consumed so much of its reserves that there is little margin to absorb unexpected or higher expenses.
Much has been made during the budget debate about the clash of wills between BOC Chairman Danny Yearwood and Sheriff Jud Smith. Yearwood believes Smith’s departments have gotten off too easy with earlier county cuts; Smith defends his need for a certain level of law enforcement service in the county.
But this budget isn’t about Smith or Yearwood, it’s about the people of Barrow County. Regardless of their personal feelings, both men have to resolve their differences and do what is best for the citizens as a whole.
Regardless of the final budget’s draft, Barrow County faces a tough financial road ahead. That fact should not be overshadowed by the political games that surround it.