Blame Steve Szablewski's holiday blues on the economy.
He's spent part of December looking at numbers and planning for the 2003 budget.
County Administrator Steve Szablewski said there is little money to spend in 2002.
"This was almost depressing when we started looking at the number for next year," the County Administrator told Columbia County Commissioners during the county's annual planning retreat in Athens last week.
Commissioners and about a dozen county employees spent Friday and Saturday in Athens recapping 2001 and planning 2002. It was budget talk that dominated most of the discussion.
"I don't think it'll be that hard of a budget to prepare this year because there's not that much money to spend," Szablewski said.
Commissioners are planning to ask county departments to keep their 2002 budget requests at 2001 levels, which means no growth in next year's budget. That'll take any talk of tax increases off the table.
"This is one of the biggest decision a county board makes," Szablewski said.
The intensive budget planning will start in January and officials hope to approve a final version in early June. Commissioner Tom Mercer said he wants solid direction soon.
"I'd like to see a dollar amount we need to shoot for," he said.
In other discussions, county leaders also want to complete negotiations for the distribution of Local Option Sales Tax Dollars with Harlem and Grovetown by June. But that could be difficult: at stake is more than $9.5 million annually.
"Whatever we do this year, we have to live with quite a while," Szablewski said.
Since 1995, Columbia County received 83.3 percent of sales tax dollars, Grovetown's received 10.7 percent and Harlem has received 6 percent.
If the new numbers followed population percentages, Grovetown would lose more than $420,000 and Harlem's share would drop $391,000. But that $391,000 is more than 68 percent of the city's current take.
"That's a big portion of their budget," Commission Chairman Barry Fleming said - who's district includes both cities.
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