Work on the 2016 budget continued last week with the County Commissioners holding work session meetings on Monday and Wednesday. Earlier this month the board discussed the possibility of going to a zero based budget system to help ensure each department was only including funding for items that are an absolute necessity instead of keeping the same amount for line items from year to year regardless if they are used or not. However, Chairman Rusty Blackston stated on Monday, November 30, that it did not seem to be feasible to do this year given the amount of prep work that would have to go into making the change. The county may consider going to a zero based system when they begin work on the budgets for 2017.
Chairman Blackston stated that most departments kept their budget requests at the same amount they were given last year, and several reduced the amount they were asking for. He noted that the majority of departments who had an increase in their total budget, that amount came from the seven percent added to cover the rising cost of insurance for employees.
The board made no decisions during the meetings on the budgets of each department, however they did question department heads on certain line items. One of the most common they questioned was the funding each department designated to training classes for employees. The commissioner questioned if the training was mandatory for each given profession or if it was optional and suggested if it was not mandatory it could be cut from their budget if necessary, however that is not something the board has decided on as of yet.
In addition to keeping the overall county budget down, one way the county will be saving some money within the next few years is through paying off several buildings under the county’s umbrella. The Courthouse Annex will be paid off in February of 2016, the Upson County Health Department will be paid off in December 2016 and the Upson County Courthouse will be paid off in 2018. Originally, the Health Department would not be paid off until January 2017, however the board decided once the Courthouse Annex is paid for early next year, the county should take that additional money and put it towards paying off the Health Department building. That way, the county will not have to factor it into the budget for just one payment in 2017.
The commissioners continued their work on the budget at a work session meeting yesterday and plan to start making final decisions on each department and the overall 2016 county budget soon.
Ashley Biles can be reached by calling 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @AshleyBiles1