Columbia County officials are closing in on a balanced budget for the next fiscal year, but they're still about $910,000 out of balance.
"We do have a plan that we are working on that we will present at the public hearing that will make it balanced," County Finance Director Leanne DeLoach said.
That public meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Columbia County Government Complex Auditorium. After the hearing, officials plan to send the budget on to commissioners for final approval June 3. The new budget year begins July 1.
County leaders are looking at a $39.1 million budget package - a 3 percent increase over the current budget. They are trying to keep the budget balanced without increasing taxes.
In early April, the county's budget was $5.3 million out of balance - split between $3.5 million in purchases and $1.8 million in new hires.
That set off number-crunching, fund-planning and request-cutting.
The tentative balancing plan looks like this:
First, the county paid off about $300,000 in debt and used some excess revenues this year to help free up tax dollars usually earmarked for debt payments next year.
Another revenue source is the county's operating reserve - money set aside that would keep the county running if tax revenues dried up or in case of a catastrophe. The county tries to keep enough money in the account to cover between 75 and 90 days, and had enough for about 100 days at the beginning of the budget process.
So they took about $1.5 million from there - leaving 75 days, about $7.7 million, in the account. That money will help pay for some new purchases, but not all of them.
"We have a lot of wants, needs and desires," County Administrator Steve Szablewski said.
Officials also have had to prioritize spending, cutting some purchases, delaying a few hirings and eliminating a couple of requested positions. In all, they've had to cut $1.9 million in capital requests and $1.1 million in new hires.
"We're going to have to find out what's our highest capital needs," DeLoach said.
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