No growth in last year's tax digest left the McDuffie County government without a few big wish list items in the budget.
This year's recently-started budget process looks to change that - if county officials get what they hope for in a total property value re-evaluation year.
The budget crafting process has begun earlier and earlier since County Manager Don Norton took over those duties. Currently, less than half of the 2005 budget year has passed, but Mr. Norton said planning this far in advance is very beneficial.
"When we do that, we're way ahead of the game," he said. "Since we do have a calendar fiscal year, it's almost imperative that we get six months ahead of that in order to go ahead and get the millage rate set right, the tax digest done on time and all those sorts of things."
Department heads have already turned in their lists of needs for next year. Those include big ticket items that commissioners may choose to leave in or take out of the budget, depending on the size of the county's coffers.
Mr. Norton has just begun to review the budget requests and will keep in contact with department heads to work out a version to present to commissioners. He said that later this month the commission will begin holding budget work sessions, and he hopes to have an adopted budget by August.
"It will be a while before the commissioners get involved," said County Commission Chairman Charlie Newton.
This year, the value of all the property in the county will be reassessed for the purpose of calculating property taxes. Chairman Newton said that, because of development in the county, the income from taxes should be higher than last year, which would help with several projects.
"I hope with this being a reassessment year we will see some growth in the digest so that we can handle some things that we've been sort of putting to the side for a while, like the staffing of Fire Station One," he said.
But Mr. Norton said he isn't banking on a huge amount of growth to formulate a budget. That way if it does happen, the county's financial position will be that much better.
"I doubt that it's going to be anything hugely dramatic, but certainly I hope we see some growth this year," he said.