By Max Hrenda
Carter County’s Budget Committee could be looking at some tough choices.
$4.4 million tough.
And if those choices aren’t made, that $4.4 million would translate into an 82-cent tax rate increase.
On Tuesday night, Finance Director Ingrid Deloach told the committee that, when combining increases in the county’s General Fund with necessary monies for the debt service fund, the current budget faces an increase of more than $4 million.
“When you add those together, the total increase is $4,465,476,” Deloach said. “I don’t think that’s where you want to be.”
Deloach and her staff estimated the increases to the county’s General Fund at approximately $2,341,739, which included requests for increases and decreases in operating budgets for the county’s various offices. On the other hand, the debt service fund, which costs taxpayers less than 12 cents of the tax rate, would require $2,121,616 to meet spending needs.
According to Deloach, these two figures are, in all likelihood, interrelated.
“We put five cents in debt service last year,” Deloach said. “In the commission meeting when we voted on the budget, we did not want to raise taxes, because citizens expressed they didn’t want their taxes raised.
“So, instead of raising taxes, we absorbed it out of the General Fund balance, just like we did the debt service fund balance years prior.”
As a result of those prior years, the debt service fund was used so much to make up for shortcomings in the General Fund that the budget might not be able to endure another year of similar policy.
“Instead of keeping enough coming in to maintain that balance where it was, we let that balance come down to about $2,121,000,” said Commission Chairman Tom Bowers, also a member of the committee. “If we do that again this year …”
Deloach finished, “Your fund balance will be totally dry.”