Tonight I went to the County Board of Supervisors for the hearing on their Budget. What a difference in atmosphere from the City!
First of all, they handed out several sheets of paper to everyone in the audience. There was the Proposed Budget, plus two sheets comparing information from this year and the Proposed Budget. Charlie Brown is the recently retired County Administrator, who is consulting on the budget this year. He gave a brief overview of the budget, and then the discussion was opened to the audience. It was very friendly and informal. Anyone could just raise their hands and make comments or ask questions, and I know you'll be shocked to learn that I asked several.
Because the County will have an increase in some revenue sources and has been able to decrease some expenses, the millege rate will be slightly less than last year - so you should pay less in taxes.
The County starts the year with $2,139,377 cash balance, and the Budget projects overall Revenues of $20,776,537 for a total of $22,915,914. About half the Revenues comes from property taxes and about another quarter comes from federal, state, and local government. The rest comes from other taxes, fees, licenses, interest, etc.
The total Expenditures are the same as the total Revenues (required for balancing a budget). The categories are, from largest to smallest: General Government, Public Safety, Public Works, Debt Service, Education, Health & Welfare, Other Financing, Conservation of Natural Resources, Economic Development & Assistance, and Culture & Recreation.
It's difficult to tell much from the Budget itself, since it is based on broad categories. As they say, the devil is in the details. There is a very lengthy budget, with all the line items. I suggested that after the end of the fiscal year (September 30), they send a copy of the entire itemized budget to the Library, which they happily agreed to do, along with a final itemized budget for this fiscal year. They also agreed to see if it was available in electronic form, and if so, to send that to the Library to post on its website. So citizens will have all year to look at the figures and can come to next year's budget hearing knowing exactly how their money is being spent.
I did find out that the Budget ultimately adopted by the Board is the one with the broad categories. The itemized budget is to help the Board determine how much goes into each category. So long as a department stays within its overall allocation, it has flexibility in expenditures. The Board will vote to change the budget only if a department needs to exceed its allocation.
The openness of this meeting was so refreshing!
The City will have it's public Budget hearing next Thursday, September 14 - don't forget to attend. Since they don't have a budget, it should be interesting.
There is also a meeting of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen on Tuesday, September 12 at 11 am.