County OKs leaner budget

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 1, 2015

This time last year, the Covington County Commission approved a $20.2 million budget that it balanced with $1.59 million funds it carried over from the previous fiscal year.

This week, commissioners passed a leaner budget – $17.4 million – based mostly on revenues it expects to collect in the fiscal year that begins today.

The new budget funds employee merit raises, but does not include an across-the-board, cost-of-living raise. It does, however, increase the pay of hourly employees by a dime an hour, and absorb increases in health insurance premiums.

The county’s costs for employee health care premiums will increase 7 percent this year, or about $70,000 to $80,000 in total.

“We absorbed all of that,” Commission Chairman Bill Godwin said.

The new budget also does not allow for equipment purchases this year, but funds one new vehicle for the sheriff’s department.

“There will be no new debt,” Godwin said. “We’ll pay for the vehicle out of cash.”

He’s also confident that new software in place that tracks purchase orders and encumbers funds once a purchase order is released will help keep spending under control.

“Now, if there is not money in that line item, you can’t get another purchase order,” he said.

The budget also establishes a reserve fund, which Godwin says the county needs for emergencies.

“If we had a storm come through here, we only had about $40,000 for unexpected expenses in the ’15 budget,” he said.

For 2016, the county will set aside $93,000 in a reserve account. Barring unforeseen emergencies, he said, he hopes to build that up to about a half million over the course of the next several years.

Department heads had input, he said.

“It’s a workable budget,” Godwin said. “We feel real good about it.”

The budget was approved earlier this week by three of the county’s five commissioners. Commissioner Carl Turman and Commissioner Harold Elmore are recovering from health issues.