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Public hearing set for county budget

— Clayton County will have to tighten its fiscal belt to offset decreases in funding sources, such as a declining tax digest, said the county’s top financial official.

In the county’s proposed fiscal year 2014 budget, Chief Financial Officer Ramona Thurman wrote that the county’s general fund budget will be cut by 10 percent, in large part because of a 3 percent decrease in the county’s digest.

The proposed general fund budget, which covers personnel, equipment and services, is $172.8 million. The cut means $19.6 million fewer tax dollars will be spent next year. The total operating budget is $247.3 million, which is down 31.2 percent from fiscal year 2013.

“Due to the challenges facing the county in regards to lower revenue collection, expenses must be lowered comparably and/or additional revenues identified to meet the projected budgetary needs,” Thurman wrote. “The FY2012 budget represents an ongoing commitment from the county to invest in its future and efficiently manage its resources.”

While the county is tightening its belt by making cuts, residents are not expected to see an increase in their taxes. Thurman recommended county commissioners keep the general fund millage rate at 20.953 mills and the fire fund rate at 4.4 mills.

Commissioners will hold a public hearing on the budget Tuesday at 5:30 p.m., at the commissioner’s office, 112 Smith St. in Jonesboro. The commission is expected to vote June 11 on approval of the budget.

Thurman explained in the budget’s opening statement that the decrease in the general fund expenditures comes primarily from the fact that the fiscal year 2013 budget included a one-time, $17 million refinancing of bonds for the police department headquarters building.

Other cuts include a 10.9 percent reduction to the Tourism Authority Fund “due to the county spending less on general assistance for tourism-related projects than in the previous three years,” said Thurman. The fund’s expenses went from $810,783 in this year to $722,750 next year.

The removal of debt service payments from the Emergency Telephone System Fund has resulted in a 5.5 percent cut in expenses for that fund. That is a $218,091 cut.

The State Narcotics Fund decreased by 64.7 percent, which equals a $220,090 cut. Meanwhile, the Federal Narcotics Fund was cut by 55.9 percent, which totals a $190,212 cut.

Lower medical service fees has resulted in an 11.4 percent cut to the Juvenile Supplemental Services Fund. That equals a $2,050 cut.

Copies of the county budget are available online at www.claytoncountyga.gov, and at the following county libraries:

• Jonesboro Library Branch, 124 Smith St.

• Headquarters Library Branch, 865 Battle Creek Road, Jonesboro.

• Lovejoy Library Branch, 1721 McDonough Road, Hampton.

• Morrow Library Branch, 6225 Maddox Road.

• Riverdale Library Branch, 420 Valley Hill Road.

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