Lee County financial woes continue - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Lee County financial woes continue

November 14, 2006

Lee County--  Lee County could be in more financial trouble.  They're headed for close to a half million dollar budget shortfall this year.

It's south Georgia's fastest growing county but tax revenue isn't keeping up with spending in Lee County. County Administrator Alan Ours admits there's a problem but he's hopeful.

"Little numbers add up to big numbers," said Ours. Right before commissioners approved the current budget, they had to fix a big 1.6 million dollar mistake. They claimed they balanced the budget, but their revenue projections were too optimistic.

"Based on what was proposed last Spring, I don't think we'll meet meet those projections," said Ours.

Less than halfway through this fiscal year, Ours says the county must work on the problem now.  He sent a memo to commissioners proposing immediate changes.

"Put a hiring freeze on all vacant positions," said Ours. Commissioners approved that along with cutting out all non-mandatory training and travel. They'll also keep a closer eye on per diem money given to county employees for travel.

Ours says if changes were not made, the county would pay the price again.

"We're projecting a possible $450,000 revenue shortfall," said Ours. But while commissioners approved freezes and cutbacks Tuesday night, they also approved raises for elected officials including the Sheriff and Tax Commissioner, increases that weren't in the budget.

"The salary for elected officials. That is something that is set by the state of Georgia," said Ours. Ours says they had no choice and those raises will come from the contingency account.  For now, he'll continue to keep account of county finances in hopes of being on better footing soon.

"I hope to see the county at the end of this fiscal year in the black," said Ours. Only time will tell if that happens. "It is doable," said Ours. It'll take effort.  More changes could be on the way to make sure the county and the budget gets to that favorable financial point.

Despite that shaky financial ground, commissioners approved a tax rollback in August to offset property value increases. Commissioners will meet Thursday to discuss more possible cuts.  

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