The Barrow County Board of Commissioners quickly and unanimously approved the county’s roughly $84.4 million total operating budget for Fiscal Year 2021 at its Tuesday, June 23 meeting.

That’s about $4.4 million over the FY2020 budget, and the $40.6 million General Fund budget approved Tuesday represents a $1.1 million — or 2.8-percent — increase over the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

The vote Tuesday was 5-0 with board chairman Pat Graham and commissioner Ben Hendrix absent.

The budget includes a 2.8-percent employment cost index pay increase for all employees except sheriff’s office and detention center employees, elected officials and constitutional officers.

Sheriff’s office and detention center employees are slated to get a 2.5-percent ECI pay increase effective July 1 and then a step increase effective Jan. 1 at the halfway point of the fiscal year. The county also plans to add a part-time state court starting Jan. 1 with $300,000 in budgeted expenses, which county manager Mike Renshaw has said will be offset by fine and fee revenues.

County manager Mike Renshaw has recommending that the board approve again this year the revenue-neutral rollback millage rates for the unincorporated (6.77, compared to 7.089 mills in FY20) and incorporated (8.78, compared to 9.029) areas. The economic development millage rate is also set to be reduced from 0.66 mills to 0.43 mills.

The board is scheduled to set the millage rate at its July 14 meeting.

County officials had been tasked with crafting a final proposed budget amid the economic uncertainty brought on by the coronavirus pandemic and encouraged Renshaw to hold off on some of the implementations until the halfway point of the new fiscal year. Renshaw also recommended defunding several vacant positions and hiring freezes were put across most departments.

County officials are projecting a 15-to-20-percent drop in sales tax distributions through March as a result of the recession, based on an economic forecast from researchers at Georgia State University.

“At the local level, arguably the most concerning and persistent fiscal challenge facing

municipal and county governments will be reductions in state funding as the General

Assembly is faced with having to make 11- to 14-percent cuts across all state departments,” Renshaw wrote to commissioners in a June 23 budget message.

He added that those spending reductions will likely have a significant impact on state programs, including the Local Maintenance Improvement Grant (LMIG) program for road maintenance and improvements.

While federal infrastructure stimulus money could offset those anticipated cuts at the state level, the county will need to ensure that key road improvement projects within its five-year capital improvement plan are shovel-ready as quickly as possible, Renshaw said.

OTHER BUSINESS

In other business Tuesday, commissioners:

•approved a $26,951 agreement with Heard’s Landscaping, of Buckhead, to install 40,000 square feet of sod, along with irrigation, at the Victor Lord Park dog park site.

•approved a senior center congregant and home-delivered meals food service agreement with Valley Services, LLC. for FY2021.

•approved the acceptance of a $15,000 grant from the Petco Foundation to provide financial assistance for animal owners in the county in need of their pets being spayed or neutered.

•approved a $7,900 budget amendment to pay for the professional cleaning of both the sheriff’s office headquarters on East Broad Street and the judicial center on Barrow Park Drive that occurred in April after employees at both locations tested positive for COVID-19. The county will likely be able to recoup the money through COVID-19 grant relief at a later date.

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