“Ideally, in a perfect scenario, it’s a plan that’s more of a wish,” Davis said.
However, the Bradley County financial plan includes several projects that the Bradley County Commission has already committed to funding.
“For the next two or three years the plan is just telling you how we’re going to pay for things that you’ve already done,” Davis said.
Projected revenues from property tax and payments-in-lieu-of taxes are included as revenue projections. Payments-in-lieu-of taxes are included separately from property tax revenues. These payments, from industries such as Wacker Polysilicon North America, are being kept separate to allow them to be allocated differently than property tax. In 2014, these PILOT revenues are projected to start coming in. With these payments, projections begin to show some discretionary income for the county in the general fund.
Included in the financial plan are possibilities for spending the discretionary income. Committee member J. Adam Lowe suggested that the Commission request prioritized projects lists from the departments this year at budget time to begin looking toward future needs. Davis said each department would have a lot of priorities because they had been operating on the same budget for about five years. Davis said equipment and computers are going to need to be replaced in many departments.
While Davis supported the idea of departments submitting the lists, he said this budget year departments need to keep in mind it will be another tough year. He suggested the Commission might consider asking for these lists after the budget process.
Davis said the Commission’s top priority for unassigned funds should be a larger fund balance for the county.
“I agree with you on the fund balance,” committee member Jeff Morelock said.
He asked what percentage of the budget the county was required by law to have in the fund balance. Davis said there’s not an actual state requirement required by statute. However, rating agencies look at the fund balance as part of their criteria.
Funds analyzed during the meeting included the general fund, fire fund, capital projects, road department, debt service and community development fund.
In the 2015-16 fiscal year, the portion of property tax money that had been allocated to the community development fund will begin being put into the debt service fund.
“We moved the money from debt service (to create the community development fund). We were going to move it until we got the incentives paid off, and then we were going to move it back,” Davis said. “The thing that got changed was a couple of more commitments have been made and we weren’t able to move it back. Originally, I think we were supposed to move it back in 2013-2014.”
Committee chairman Ed Elkins and committee member Mel Griffith asked about changes in the amount projected coming from housing federal inmates at the jail. Elkins said the projected amount was larger than the actual amount for the previous year. Davis said the projections are based on the contract the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office has to house 100 inmates. The jail is currently not taking as many federal inmates as the contract allows.
Funding for Bradley County Fire-Rescue comes from a different tax and the general fund. A separate fire tax brings in revenue for the fire department. During Wednesday’s meeting, changes that expansion will bring to fire tax revenue were discussed. Davis explained that the rate will not change but those who are now within five miles of a paid stations who were not previously will pay more fire tax. Industry is given payment in lieu of taxes still interview to fire tax revenue.
The road department receives some funding monthly from the gasoline tax. Committee members asked about fund balance fluctuations over the years. Davis said the road superintendent requests enough funding to complete all the road projects needed. However, all the projects do not always get completed, meaning more money goes into the fund balance. Griffith said weather is often a factor. Thus the fund shows a fluctuating fund balance because of this.
As more funding has gone to the community development found, less funding has been allocated to capital projects. This is something that could be changed in the future. In recent years the capital projects fund has been used to fund equipment, such as police cars, that there was not enough money in the general budget to fund. Davis said in the future these purchases could come back under the general fund when funding allows.
Elkins pointed out inflation in projected costs for vehicles was not included. He said he would like to include it.