DECATUR — Macon County has managed to avoid layoffs for another year as leaders unveiled Tuesday a $75.3 million budget for the coming fiscal year.
With stagnant sales tax and income tax revenue coming in, county officials asked department heads to hold expenses flat for the fiscal year that begins Dec. 1.
The county board is set to vote on the spending plan next month, after it has been on public display for 30 days as required by law.
The overall budget is $2.9 million more than the current one, but that's because expenses include a number of grants and planned road projects, said Auditor Carol Reed, who oversees the budgeting process. The general fund budget, which covers the day-to-day operations of most county departments, is at $26.4 million, a reduction of $169,000 from the current fiscal year.
“We’re pretty much holding steady as is, but it’s something we will have to watch closely,” Reed said.
The general fund is estimated to fall $1.9 million short of being balanced, which will require the county to rely on reserves and spending restraints to cover the gap. Currently, the county has a fund balance, or reserve, of $5.1 million.
A major factor in the revenue decline are expectations the county will receive fewer funds from fees collected by various departments and the reduction in revenue from housing federal prisoners. The current budget estimated the county would bring in $750,000 from housing federal prisoners, but Reed said as of now, they are expecting to fall short of that estimate by $400,000.
Reed said she expects the difference between revenue and expenses to level out because the county typically spends less than is planned.
As in several recent years, department heads were asked to be mindful of their budgets and to cut wherever possible. However, in September, the county board approved using $150,000 in its reserves to prevent three layoffs in the county’s Probation Department. That came after the department already had to deal with a roughly $250,000 cut from the state, in part because it did not fill positions in an effort to save money.