Stephens Co. Commission Passes FY 15 Budget

Stephens County Commissioners pass a Fiscal Year 2015 budget.

Commissioners voted 4-1 Tuesday to approve the budget that takes effect July 1.

That budget is built based on a 2.85 mill increase in the county’s millage rate, taking that millage rate from 11.32 to 14.17 mills.

County Commissioner Stanley London voted against the budget.

London said he cannot support a budget with this high of a millage rate increase.

“I just do not feel like our citizens can be forced to come up with that,” said London. “All of our small businesses and large businesses are going to have to compensate with raises in prices. There are people already on constraints. I just do not feel like it is the right time for a millage rate increase of this size, if any at all.”

London pointed to the addition of four additional Sheriff’s Office deputies in the budget as something he would have left out of the budget to reduce expenditures.

During discussions on the budget prior to the vote, County Commission Chairman Dean Scarborough proposed shifting two of those deputy positions to public works to help fill needs there.

However, Commissioner Dennis Bell proposed leaving all four deputies in and adding one more full-time position for public works.

“The deputies are very important to us in this community,” said Bell. “Without them, it is scary. The times are not getting any better. The economy is down. There are going to be a lot of crimes against persons happening and we need our deputy sheriffs out here. We also need road department (workers).”

The majority of the commission approved Bell’s proposal.

It was the only change made from the budget presented two weeks ago.

County officials said the money needed for that added public works position will come from money set aside in the budget to start re-building the county’s undesignated fund balance.

Overall, Scarborough said this was a tough budget to put together.

“So many needs, so little money,” said Scarborough. “Several of us had serious problems with the amount that we needed, but it was an amount we have come to with lots of discussion and lots of gnashing of teeth. We were able to add a worker today for public works, which I am excited about because I know how bad our roads need attention. We have had more cuts in that department than anywhere else. Another big issue was the Sheriff’s deputies. We did institute all four of those. That was a big deal to several commissioners who wanted to see that was done.”

During public comments on the budget, Currahee Club Managing Director Andrew Ward and Hill Street Baptist Church Pastor and Sheriff’s Office Chaplain the Rev. Paul Garrison spoke in support of the additional deputies for the Sheriff’s Office.

Meanwhile, former county commissioner Jonesy Haygood expressed concern about the size of the millage rate increase and encouraged commissioners to look closely at the budget in future years to avoid such a large increase in the future.

When subtracting the projected SPLOST VI collections from the budget in Fiscal Year 2015, the total expenditures in the proposed budget for next fiscal year are just over $16.03 million.