“It’s balanced, it’s sustainable, it’s actually a millage reduction. We feel good about it,” Lee said.
The county’s fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30 and the proposed budget is scheduled for adoption on Sept. 10.
The county will have transferred $17.2 million from its water fund to its general fund for its existing budget.
Lee wants the Board of Commissioners to transfer $18.2 million for the new budget to avoid raising property taxes.
“Transfers from the water fund was established back in the ’90s as a way to keep the millage rate down,” Lee said. “That was the policy of the commission at that time, and it’s been utilized ever since.”
Commissioner Bob Ott is a critic of the practice.
“I still have a problem with transferring money from the water system into the general fund and then raising the water rates because, as I’ve stated in the past, you’re taking a necessary commodity, water, and taking money from that system and putting it in the general fund and then raising water rates, so something that people do not have an option to say, ‘Well, I am going to go without,’ so I have a problem with that,” Ott said.
Lee listed the alternatives he saw to making the transfer.
“We’d have to either raise millage to compensate for it or eliminate services and $18 million is more than the Parks, Rec and Cultural Affairs Department in one year — it’s a huge amount of services,” he said.
Employee raises for those who pass
Lee is proposing a three percent “performance-based” pay increase for all employees, which would likely take effect in February.
“Everyone is eligible but you’ve got to pass your evaluation,” Lee said. “I would say more people pass than not, but how many will get a 3 percent we won’t know until we do the evaluations in December.”
The raise would be given to elected officials such as commissioners as well, he said.
The budget also calls for lowering the portion of the millage rate, which contributes to the general fund by .2 mills to 7.32 mills. That’s a savings of $6 annually for a home valued at $100,000, $14 for a $200,000 home and $38 for a $500,000 home.
Budgeted full-time positions would rise from 4,440 in the current year to 4,456 in the new budget.
“Some of them are for the district attorney’s office, the court system, senior services — they are very specialized positions that we have analyzed based on the staff’s recommendation that are warranted,” Lee said.
Budgeted part-time positions would decrease from 1,261 this year to 1,228. The reduction is a result of the county government handing over the funding of school crossing guards to the Cobb School District.
“We used to fund that and the school board is taking that over,” Lee said.
Lee’s general fund budget for fiscal 2014 is $326.3 million, which is an increase of $4.5 million or 1.39 percent over the current general fund budget.
“The proposed budget is going up primarily because of revenue outside of property taxes, primarily associated with the sales tax of automobiles when the legislation came through, so we have to reflect that in our budget,” he said. “We have to put a good amount of that aside ‘cause we’re not quite sure where it’s going to even out, so it increased primarily because of that.”
Lee’s total budget for fiscal 2014, which includes all operating and capital budgets for the county government, is $816.7 million, which is an increase of $991,246 or 0.12 percent over the current year.