The Houston County annual financial report is out and it reveals that the county will have to do some belt tightening for the rest of this year.
After two years of positive tax collections, Houston County commissioners will have to do more number crunching. Total expenses for fiscal year 2007-2008 were $38.6 million, outpacing incoming revenue by $1 million. And this fiscal year, that difference is expected to grow to $3 million.
William Dempsey, the Chief Administrative Officer, says, “Houston County a financial standpoint we're still in sound shape but we know going into this coming year we have to cut our expenses in order to remain in that position.”
The county hopes to make up the difference through a number of measures, spending less in salaries through attrition; 25 people are leaving jobs and will not be replaced. They're hoping increased fee collections will bring in more revenue. And if measures are approved by state lawmakers to increase court costs and levy lodging fees. It will bring in additional revenue.
But in the meantime, spending cuts are inevitable.
Dempsey says, “Just like we did this year, we'll go line item by line item and look throughout the county how we do it we haven't developed a plan yet.”
Commissioners say they intend to continue to deliver all the necessary services to residents without raising taxes.
Chairman Mark Culver of the Houston County Commission says, “We've got to continue to have a sheriff's department we've got to have collections for the state and taxes in the probate office we've got to do all that we've cut to have the funds to do it so hopefully through some cuts and enhanced revenue we'll be able to do that.”
Commissioners say whatever it takes. They will find a way to stay within budget and keep the county running.
Officials say the 2009 - 2010 fiscal year will prove to be even more of a challenge. A lot hinges on the health of the national economy and the Country Crossing Project moving forward.