The Upson County Board of Commissioners began work on the 2016 budget at a called work session meeting held on Monday, November 23 and will continue sifting through the requests in meetings this week. So far, the 2016 budget came to a total of $14,518,629 when presented to the commissioners and while that is over $682,000 less than the approved 2015 budget ($15,201,345), County Finance Officer Wayne Sandefur stated revenues are forecasted to be less than the requested amount in the coming year, therefore it is likely cuts will still need to be made.
Some departments increased their budgets from last year, however Sandefur stated a portion of the increase is due to the likelihood of higher insurance rates next year. He added that rates could go up as much as 14 percent, therefore he and County Manager Jim Wheeless factored in at least a seven percent increase for each department. Commissioner Ralph Ellington commented that several departments had decreased their budgets significantly, which he felt demonstrated those department heads were being good stewards for the county.
A number of departments kept the same budget amount they were granted last year and while the board was thankful they did not request more, they questioned if all of the funding asked for was needed for some line items. For example, one of the departments they reviewed showed a line item of $11,000 for education and training purposes, however to date only $4,000 of that amount had been used. The commissioners wondered about the likelihood of $7,000 being used in the next month and if the amount could have been reduced.
After reviewing several departments, Commissioner Lorenzo Wilder told the rest of the board he would like to see the departments begin each year with a zero based budget. Department heads would have to justify why they needed the requested amount each year, instead of just asking for the same amount from the year before, even if that much was not needed this time around. The rest of the board agreed. Commission Chairman Rusty Blackston added that he would like to see what each department actually spent for each line item in 2014 to compare with what is requested and asked Sandefur to get the board a print out.
The commissioners decided before they went forward with approval or denial of the requests, they would like to speak with several of the department heads to discuss the issues and they began meeting with them on Monday of this week. The Thomaston Times will bring you more updates on the county’s 2016 budget as it becomes available.
Ashley Biles can be reached by calling 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @AshleyBiles1.