Dwindling reserves creating big problem in Dougherty County budget

Dougherty County commissioners reviewed the county's proposed budget for fiscal year 2019 at their meeting Monday. / Mary Green

Dougherty County commissioners reviewed the county's proposed budget for fiscal year 2019 at their meeting Monday.

Now they're facing a big problem in the general fund that needs a fix as soon as possible.

"Once we hit October, there's no money to pay the bills," Interim County Administrator Michael McCoy said.

It costs $12.5 million out of the general fund to operate the county for three months. But right now, Dougherty County only has $12.3 million in cash on hand.

"Until we start receiving revenue in November and December from property taxes," McCoy said.

In the proposed budget, that money from the county's reserves would make up 14 percent of its revenue in FY19, which McCoy called "not an ideal situation."

McCoy said using money from the general fund's reserves has been a problem for several years and has to do with the decreasing value of a mill, which factors into how much money the county collects in property taxes.

"About 10 years ago, one mill would bring in about $2.1, $2.2 million," McCoy said. "Well today, the value of a mill is worth $1.9 million."

That means Dougherty County isn't bringing in as much revenue as it once was, while its expenses are rising.

Next Monday, a consultant group will talk with commissioners about what their options are to solve this problem.

District 1 Commissioner and Finance Committee Chairman Lamar Hudgins said a millage rate increase could be one of those.

"We'll be discussing that next week," he said. "We definitely need to increase our revenues."

McCoy said the other two big funds in the budget, the special services district fund and the solid waste enterprise fund, are in good shape at this time.

He said the county did transfer about $9.5 million from the landfill in the solid waste enterprise fund to cover storm-related costs, and so far, they've received about $5.4 million back in FEMA and GEMA reimbursements.

They're still waiting on the other $4.1 million to return to the landfill.

"That process has kind of slowed down for us with our reimbursements because of all the natural disasters that occurred [across the country]," McCoy said. "And remember, we had three in our community alone, which was probably a record — two tornadoes and a hurricane."

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