• 70°

Petty: County will see big cut to debt

County administrator Brenda Petty said Wednesday’s passage of the 2009-2010 fiscal year budget is the first step in eliminating “a tremendous amount of the county’s debt” within the next three years.

The $25.8 million budget is the first “combined operating budget” under the unit system and does not include a cost of living raise for employees, but did include the absorption of an $85,000 increase in health insurance costs.

“This is a different budget than we’ve ever had before,” said Petty, who pointed out the only difference in revenue between this year’s fiscal budget and the newly adopted one is $3.2 million expected from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“With that money, I was able to make a balanced budget,” Petty said. “We were able to make a good attempt at correcting a deficit fund balance in the gas tax account. It’s going to take two years, but we’ve got a good start on it.

“We will also see a significant decrease in our equipment debt this year,” she said. “Half of it will pay out in this budget and when you don’t see us having those high payments, that money can be used to pay on outstanding equipment. I’d say in a two to three year period, we’ll see a tremendous decrease in the county’s debt.”

Commissioner David Ellis said that, with the exception of pay raises, each county department was “given nearly every dollar they asked for.”

Chairman Lynn Sasser said departments would “look at things cautiously,” and that if things “are stable,” commissioners would examine giving pay raises and the possibility of paying overtime, instead of employees accruing compensatory time.