The county proposed a $54.3 million budget for the 2011 fiscal year - a 1.6 percent increase over this year's revised budget - which would not require a millage rate increase, according to the initial tax digest estimate.
The 2011 proposed budget is about 1.6 percent over the goal of staying at the 2010 revised budget, which was $53.6 million, said Finance Director Roselyn Miller at Tuesday night's budget hearing.
Miller noted the biggest increase in expenditures - about $981,400 or a 2.6 percent increase in personnel services and benefits - was almost entirely for public safety departments such as the Sheriff's Office and Fire Department.
"You'll see throughout this budget, the number one priority is safety," she said.
Staffing and running the expanded jail and the new fire station no. 9 were included in the increases.
However, the proposed budget would not require a millage rate increase, according to early estimates.
Early tax digest projections estimate a 1 percent increase in the tax digest, or total taxable property in the county, and a 1 percent increase in the total revenue for 2011. Last year, there was an initial projection of a 3 percent decrease in the tax digest, which turned out to be a much more drastic 8-plus percent decrease.
Tax Commissioner Dan Ray said the 2011 projection was a best case scenario drawn from existing values on the books, before the adjustment period takes place in the first part 2011.
Miller said the 2011 budget reflected a 2 percent decrease in the net tax digest. "We're hoping for the best, but we're planning for the worst," she said.
That would leave the budget with a gap of about $1.7 million, which would be drawn from the fund balance, currently around $33 million. Miller likened it to drawing from a savings account.
However, she pointed out the county is en route to spending about 4 percent less than planned for 2010. If that continues, she said, the county would not have to draw as much from the fund balance to close the 2011 gap.
BOC Chairman Richard Oden said, "I think there’s very little fat in this budget. There’s no fat in the general fund budget at all."
Post 2 Commissioner JaNice Van Ness commended the budget process starting earlier than last year.
"I still think there’s work to be done," she said, adding that the outside agencies funding could be looked at more closely.
Post 1 Commissioner Oz Nesbitt did not attend the hearing.
The county will not hold budget hearings on personnel expenditures, as they did last year. The BOC is scheduled hear the first reading of the budget at their next voting session on Nov. 23, 10 a.m. at the 901 Main Street assembly hall. The second read and vote on adopting the budget is scheduled for Dec. 13, 10 a.m. at 901 Main Street.