If Chattooga County does not have a budget ready before the New Year, Commissioner Jason Winters is not going to sweat it.
The county operates on a budget based on a calendar year -- January through December. The 2017 budget, however, isn't really completed.
Instead. . . .
"We are truly running on last year's budget," Commissioner Winters said.
He's taking the current year's budget and using the same numbers for 2017.
"We want to see how our end of the year numbers look and we will make some decisions for January and February," Winters said.
The 2016 budget, and now the 2017 budget also, is $10,834,081.
There are several items that are still unknown for the commissioner.
1.) Will county employees get a pay raise?
" I don't want to say we are not going to give pay raises, but I don't want to commit to it either," Commissioner Winters said.
Some department heads listed raises for various employees. But the commissioner wants to hold off making a decision on those raises until January or February.
2.) Will county employees receive retirement benefits?
The county stopped funding retirement a few years ago after finances became tight. However, just this month the commissioner funded all the county's retirement accounts.
A three-percent contribution costs taxpayers $100,000, Winters previously said.
Traditionally, the county contributes to a 401k plan and it’s usually three percent of an employee’s salary.
County employees got a reduced compensation of one percent to their retirement account in 2012 and zilch for 2013-2015.
The commissioner is not totally happy with how the county's retirement plan operates.
"We are looking at some options at changing the retirement system. But we are not even getting anywhere close to making a decision on it. I hope it is something we can see later," Winters said.
3.) How much will the sheriff spend on housing inmates in 2017?
The county spent about $700,000 housing inmates in 2015. Officials believe that expense increased even more this year.
However, the commissioner hopes the sheriff is going to utilize more space at the county jail to house more inmates locally and not ship them off to other jails. Other jails charge $35-$45 per day, per inmate.
"We continue to work on what his estimated housing numbers are. Those are hard for him to detail. But I hope they are not as high of numbers as the last two years were. I hope we are able to keep that number down. I think the sheriff will try his best to keep that number down," Winters said. "We never tried to box the sheriff in to a specific number. But it goes back to something that I said a lot this year. Maximize the resources you have. I feel like we are both working to do that. . . I think by sometime next week we should have his budget a little more detailed."
The county's revenue won't change that much in 2017, according to the commissioner. He believes sales tax funds will remain steady and property tax collections will continue at the same pace.
The commissioner will have a public adoption of the 2017 budget at 11 a.m. Monday at his office on Commerce Street.
Some of the proposed department expenses include:
* Jail is $1,296,924.
* Sheriff's office is $1,588,286.
* Commissioner's office is $337,048.
* Tax Assessors is $364,484.
* Tax Commissioner is $339,639.
* Superior Court is $91,894.
* Clerk of Court is $315,182.
* State Court is $185,746.
* Magistrate Court is $176,779.
* District Attorney is $142,869.
* Rural Fire Protection gets $113,950.
* Courthouse Security is $106,724.
* 9-1-1 gets $695,525.
* Animal Control is $113,550.
* Public Works is $32,450.
* Sanitation is $512,822.
* Health Department gets $159,732.
* Economic Development Authority gets $126,375.
* Public Transportation is $124,200.
* Roads and Bridge Fund is $1,397,568.
* SPLOST is to bring in $2,545,212 million.
* Property taxes will generate $6,095,444 million