Lowndes Supes Adopt FY16 Budget
BY BRIAN JONES
COLUMBUS – At its Sept. 15 meeting, the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors adopted the FY16 budget and set the millage rate.
The county will have about a $750,000 shortfall that will have to come out of reserves, said County Administrator Ralph Billingsley.
“It was a tough year,” Billingsley said. “Revenues were down a little bit. We tried to hold expenses down where we could without jeopardizing the services we offer to the community. We decreased the general fund half a million dollars from the previous year’s budget. We have an operations shortfall in the general fund of about $150,000. The hospital fund is down a little bit because of the stock market. We’re anticipating a potential $600,000 shortfall on finishing up the E911 budget. That’s going to have to come out of reserves rather than the hospital money. That leaves an approximately $750,000 total shortfall. We do have reserves adequate enough to fund that. The one potential amendment is that we did not budget for the court reporter pay increase. If you give them the increase for the first year it comes to about $1,400 a month, which is Lowndes County’s share of that. That comes to about $17,000 a year.”
District 4 Supervisor Jeff Smith asked for an additional $21,000 for the baseball field at Plum Grove.
“There are unanticipated costs,” Smith said. “I don’t know how we missed it. We’ve got that scoreboard, and there is no power out there where the field is being constructed, so that will have to be run out there. I don’t know how that was left out. We also have sewage costs for the pavilion. I think we need about $21,000 to close it out. The project’s been dragging along for a while. I’m sick of talking to the board about it, but for the sake of the project, the board and the public the $21,000 needs to be given to that project.”
District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks asked that the county work with the city to find money for the Field of Dreams, which would serve special needs children. The project has been discussed at Columbus-Lowndes Recreation Authority meetings, city council meeting and board of supervisors meetings, especially over the past year. The citizens group Golden Triangle Outdoors is spearheading the fundraising efforts, and has some $40,000 in hand. They are asking for $100,000 each from the city and county, with the rest of the $300,000 price tag to come from donations and grants.
During its budget process, the Columbus City Council formed a committee to investigate the project. Brooks asked the county to follow suit.
“I know money is tight,” Brooks said. “The city appointed two members just for the sake of keeping this project under discussion and moving forward, and I suggest we do the same thing. It’s a worthwhile project. For years we talked about baseball, and now it’s soccer. There’s a whole group of children that don’t participate in everything, the children with handicaps and physical disabilities. I hope at least two people will meet with the city and we will be the liaison with the other group. We’ve kind of been mum about it. I think the mumness may convey a sense that we’re not interested. Even though we don’t have money today, that doesn’t mean we won’t have any down the road. I don’t know if the city is waiting on us to take action, but I want to do something that will keep some life in it. I’m for maintaining budget integrity, but at the same time I’m for that project.”0