Georgetown County reduces deficit (with link to breakdown)

Georgetown County has been able to reduce its overall budget deficit from about $1 million to about $551,000 for the upcoming 2010-2011 budget year.

County officials plan to make up some of the projected deficits by delaying some equipment purchases, eliminating some office furniture purchases, reducing consultant fees and reducing maintenance contracts, according to the draft budget presented to the Georgetown County Council Tuesday.

No property tax increases are part of the budget.

At the beginning of the month the county projected being $1 million short overall. The largest deficits were $619,000 in the general fund and $332,000 shortfall in the environmental services funds, due to projected losses in property taxes and state reimbursements.

Since then, the county has been able to balance the environmental services budget and trim about $140,000 from the general fund, according to information presented Tuesday.

The cuts to the environmental services fund includeslashing about $98,000 from recycling department for new vehicles; $84,544 for improvements and $21, 500 for non-capital assets -office furniture.

In the general fund, the county's Management Information Services Department took the biggest hit with about $117,000 in cuts to equipment and software maintenance contracts and office furniture.

The county is now $475,000 over budget in its general fund, which covers the day to day operations of the county.

The county has about $9.5 million in its general reserve fund, said county administrator Sel Hemingway.

"The rule of thumb is to have 10 percent of the budget in reserve," Hemingway said.

The county fire fund is $46,000 over budget for the upcoming year and victim services is over by about $30,000.

Hemingway said the county fire department would make up the $46,000 by dipping into the county fire reserve fund.

Hemingway said he is working with clerk Alma White to figure out how to cover the shortfall for victims services before the next council meeting.

The county still is waiting for action from the S.C. Department of Revenue or the state's general assembly to decide whether to hold property reassessments in 2010-2011 as scheduled.

When the general assembly passed Act 388, a property relief tax bill, it created a glitch in the millage calculation, Hemingway said.

Under the law, school districts are not allowed to collect property taxes for operating expenses on non-owner occupied property.

It also means any tax rate increases must be made according to the Consumer Price Index and population growth. Because there has been no growth, it could tie the county's hands on whether it can adjust the millage rate adequately during reassessment.

The county could face losing $1.6 million, Hemingway said.

There will be a public hearing to review the budget May 25 at the Georgetown County Courthouse, 129 Screven St.

No time has been set for that hearing.