McDuffie County Commissioners have their work cut out for them as planning began on the 2007 budget Tuesday evening. Several department heads met with commissioners to explain their capital expenditure requests.
A structure change of the Fire Department toward paid staff instead of volunteer and the staffing of the Pea Ridge station came up during the discussion. The request was not included in the preliminary budget that, according to Commission Chairman Charlie Newton, is more than $600,000 shy of being balanced.
The problem for the coming year's budget stems from a smaller-than-normal number of "expendable" requests. In years past, commissioners have cut items that departments can do without for another year. This year, cutting all $236,000 of those requests still won't balance the budget.
"Now we're talking about something that is a little bit tougher," Chairman Newton said. "We've got some real tough talking to do."
The county's general fund revenue for 2007 is projected at $11.5 million. Current appropriations prior to the initial round of cuts are set at $11.7 million. That number does not include employee salary increases or a contingency fund.
Several departments such as Information Technology, the Tax Assessors' office, Recreation, the Public Defender's office, the Fire Department and Planning and Zoning have asked for additional personnel. None of those requests were included in the preliminary budget.
"We're not in a year where we can handle it," Chairman Newton said of creating additional positions. "...We're going to have to suck it up."
The next step for commissioners will take place during their June 5 work session. County Manager Don Norton will get department heads who have requested capital items in the budget to attend the meeting and make their cases for those items.
"We'll continue to work it until we have our next meeting, and we'll be able to massage that," Mr. Norton said of the preliminary budget.
One proposal to increase revenue came in the form of raising the Recreation Department's sports participation fees. Currently the fee stands at $25 per sport and has remained there for over 10 years.
Chairman Newton recommended that the Recreation Board consider the option of raising the fee to $35. He said that would generate an additional $25,000 of revenue.