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By Melissa Blankenship
The difference between last year’s Fiscal Court budget and this year’s is a little over $311,000, but most line items are similar if not exactly the same as last year’s.
“The extra revenue we’re seeing in this budget results from an increase in our LGEA (Local Government Economic Assistance) fund which is based on the tonnage of rock that is pulled from the quarry (Liter’s),” Henry County Judge-Executive John Logan Brent said. “And we’re seeing a little extra from property taxes, but that’s mainly due to the fact that more houses are being occupied, not because we raised taxes.”
Last year’s budget included $62,000 for the LGEA programs, which provides financial assistance to community initiatives like indigent care, senior citizens programs, the hisotrical society, Chamber of Commerce, dead animal removal and others. This year’s budget allots $85,000 for LGEA.
With the additional revenue, the county plans to purchase a new ambulance at $120,000, paying half in this year’s budget and half next year, and create a new ballfield at Harry Hill Park.
“There’s a lot of demand for that because our local teams are playing regionally now,” Brent said. “So play is increasing, and we needed another field.”
Other increases, Brent said, are attributable to annually increases in health insurance and social security, and this year pay increases for county employees.
All part-time and full-time employees will receive a .40 cents per hour across the board pay increase, while the elected positions of magistrates, county attorney, jailer and coroner will receive a 2.5 percent cost of living increases, pending state guidelines.
“Honestly, it’s not a very exciting budget,” Brent said. “There’s not very much to point out as far as unusual expenses or surprise sources of revenue. We rely every year on our carryover to balance the budget, then we work throughout the year to cut and not spend in line items where we don’t have to.”
Brent noted that several expenses in the budget are out of the county’s control, like social security, workman’s compensation and costs of health care.
“But when folks are only making $10 or $12 an hour, you better have decent health insurance,” Brent said. “We have to and we want to provide good health insurance for our employees.”
Brent also pointed out that over the years, another change out of the county’s control is related to interest revenue.
“At the end of 2006, we earned $54,000 in interest on our general fund on about the same amount of money we have now,” Brent said. “But at the end of 2013, we only earned $15,000 in interest on the general fund. So, $40,000 is a big difference.”
The total budget for 2014 for all funds the county manages is $6,210,395, up from $5,898,768 in 2013. Brent said the county maintains a conservative approach to the budget, practicing frugality whenever possible.
“Just because the money is in the budget, we don’t spend it if we don’t have to. If something breaks we use it because we have to, but first we try to patch and fix, save money wherever we can,” Brent said. “At the end of the year, we’re probably going to be close to scratch.”