Macon Commissioners Approve 2017-2018 Budget

This week, the Macon County Board of Commissioners approved their budget for the upcoming 2017-2018 fiscal year. Following a public hearing attended by only a few citizens, the budget passed with a 3-2 vote with Commissioners Karl Gillespie and Paul Higdon casting the two dissenting votes. The vote follows months of work sessions with county department heads as well as budget work sessions with county commissioners. After a four-hour, final budget work session Monday night, county commissioners made very few changes to the original budget proposed by Roland.

The approved budget appropriation of $49,587,927 represents the operation of the county government and its activities for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2017 and ending June 30, 2018. The budget calls for no tax increases with revenues and expenditures being balanced at a property tax rate of 34.9 cents per $100 of property valuation. In addition, the budget includes an estimated 41.8 percent fund balance in the general fund.

During Monday’s budget work session, commissioners discussed additional budget requests from several county departments including the Macon County School System, Macon County Public Library, Franklin Fire Department, Burningtown/Iotla Volunteer Fire and Rescue and Macon County Board of Health. After much discussion and debate, the board only approved the fire departments’ requests with the other departments’ requests remaining at the original budgeted amount. Both the Franklin and Burningtown/Iotla fire departments asked commissioners for increases to their fire tax.

At the work session, commissioners voted 4 to 1 to approve the Franklin Fire Department’s request for a 22 percent fire tax increase from .0445 to .0545 or by one cent. Commissioner Higdon cast the lone dissenting vote against the request. The tax increase will fund a full-time position allowing the department to have coverage 24-7 as well as replace aging equipment.

With another 4 to 1 vote with Higdon again voting no, commissioners also approved an increase to the fire tax in the Burningtowon/Iotla Fire District. Although commissioners approved a fire tax increase for the department, it was less than the original 21 percent fire tax increase originally requested by the district. Commissioners voted to increase the fire tax to .1009 generating an additional $213,743 for the department. Funds generated from the fire tax increase will be used to get the district’s new $500,000 substation online and operational.

Higdon voted against the budget citing his opposition to the two fire department tax increases. Higdon also spoke on the need of the board to work toward establishing consistency among all fire departments in the county.

“I am not happy when our budget continues to grow,” said Higdon. “In the past four years, I have been on this board they have grown every year. We had some robust debate on a couple of fire districts that in my personal and professional opinion had requested and were approved excessive tax increases. I adamantly oppose then, tonight and forever anything that comes before us as a 21 to 22 percent tax increase for whatever it may be. I voted against those things as a minority in the board. As I am against the two excessive tax increases, and since the fire budget is in the total budget package, I will vote against this budget in its entirety.”

“I am not opposed to fire departments, and I appreciate the service they offer,” he added. “However, I think it is high time we begin to instill consistency among fire department funding, and this board tries to adopt some analytical procedure for determining how we fund county fire departments with tax payers’ dollars.”