By Anderson County Mayor Terry Frank and Budget Director Chris Phillips
As Anderson County government begins the budget process for the 2013/2014 county budget, we wanted to share with the citizens, elected officials, county employees, and all interested parties some of the challenges and opportunities that we face in presenting our County Commission with a balanced, no-tax-increase budget while still providing core services.
Upon first request from all departments, the county’s general fund budget is out of balance by more than $4 million, expenditures over revenues.
Revenues are initially projected at 98 percent of our current year levels. Property assessments (growth) have a slight increase, while things like sales tax and business tax are projected to be down to some extent. While the county’s general fund is not heavily dependent upon federal revenue, budget woes at the federal level have caused concern about some of the revenues that we do receive.
Expenditures requested are $4.1 million, or 17 percent, above current year levels. The primary drivers of those increases are the need for additional jailers, medical costs for both county employees and inmates, increased costs associated with additional space in the new jail, and various capital outlay requests.
The Anderson County Schools’ General Purpose fund is presented initially with expenditures exceeding revenue by $3.2 million. This is not the final budget submission for Commission to vote on as the Board of Education is continuing to work on their proposal.
While this budget proves to be one of the most challenging budgets in many years to balance within the county’s current means, it presents several opportunities to explore new ways of increasing revenue, new means of efficiencies in county departments, and the chance to partner with industries and organizations to meet these challenges for the betterment of the people of Anderson County.
I want to stress that our economic challenges are similar to economic challenges facing our entire nation. In tough times, we will have to make some tough decisions. Those tough decisions are being made at other state and local levels, and Anderson County is not immune. Our revenue growth has been flat and we simply cannot fund all the increases that have been requested. The key is to get through the challenging times and focus on prioritizing funds in areas that will grow our local economy in the long term.