County officials are calling the recently approved 2007 budget a "slight increase" over the 2006 version. The 1.5 percent increase over the current year represents a balanced budget without the need for a property tax increase.
And much of what commissioners hoped to include in the budget made its way in, with the exception of some new positions in several departments. The general fund stands at $12.13 million; that includes a 2.5 percent cost of living increase for employees and nearly $200,000 in contingency.
"We're always glad to get that accomplished. It's a long process to go through," said County Manager Don Norton. "Without a millage increase, it's getting tighter and tighter. Particularly with cost of living and the gasoline expense that everybody talks about, it's harder and harder to make those ends meet. I am proud that we were able to do that without having to either go to a millage rate increase or to really cut services."
Officials aren't counting on overage from the current year's budget to pad next year's. It could help with contingency, but revenues last year were short of 100 percent which cuts into any overage after the year's expenditures are finished.
"We watch those expenditures like hawks, and we're just not going to over expend," Mr. Norton said. "When it comes to the revenue, there's not too much you can do about it."
The 2007 budget is considered tentatively approved until the millage rate is set. Included are large items such as $12,000 to upgrade the 911 system and $66,000 as the matching share of a grant to extend the runway at the Thomson-McDuffie County airport.
"It's hard to not use that money for leverage that way," Mr. Norton said of the runway extension.
Items requested but not included in the budget are mostly additional personnel, Mr. Norton said. He added that the county will eventually have to create positions in the information technology department and tax assessor's office.
"We are going to have more and more going on," he said. "We're going to have to try to get an additional person so that we can keep up just a little bit better."