By DOTTY NIST
Mostly due to early retirements of county staff members, Walton County has reduced its tentative budget from the number tentatively approved in July by almost $700,000.
At the county’s first official budget hearing for the 2011-12 fiscal year, county commissioners approved a tentative budget of slightly less than $93.6 million and a millage rate of 3.5563 mills. The $93.6 million includes the North Walton Mosquito Control District’s (NWMCD) budget of $645,105, and the millage rate for the NWMCD was approved at the current year rate of 0.4912 mill.
The hearing took place on Sept. 12 at the South Walton Courthouse Annex.
One mill equals $1 for each $1,000 of taxable property value.
The tentative budget number that had been approved in July was $94,255,863.
The millage rate tentatively approved in July and again on Sept. 12 is equal to the rate for the current year. It represents slightly more than a 5-percent decrease from the rolled-back rate, which is the rate that would have essentially generated the same amount of ad valorem taxes as in the current year.
At the Sept. 12 meeting, County Administrator Greg Kisela listed changes to the proposed budget since the county’s budget workshop in July.
Most of the changes involved the elimination of county positions, made possible mainly by employees taking advantage of the early retirement program approved by commissioners in June. Budget reductions included the Walton County Tax Collector’s Office lowering its request by $242, 619.
Walton County Citizen Services Director Ken Little had taken early retirement and that position had been eliminated, with associated tasks being divided between other departments and divisions. Public information had been part of that position, so a public information officer position was added to county administration at a yearly salary of $75,112.
Other additions since July included $40,000 for postage for the Walton County Supervisor of Elections’ budget, $50,000 to fund the county’s responsibility in connection with the operation of the Freeport Swimming Pool, $50,000 for Criminal Justice Prevention and $35,000 for Crime Prevention.
In July, to address the $4 million shortfall facing the county for the new fiscal year and balance the budget, the commissioners had approved transferring approximately $2 million from the Walton County Landfill reserves account to Walton County Public Works to fund road work. Kisela noted that, due to reductions in the proposed budget since July, it would only be necessary to dip into those reserves by $1.5 million.
The tentative budget and millage rate were approved by unanimous vote of the commissioners.
The final budget and millage rate are scheduled to be approved by the commissioners at 5:01 p.m. on Sept. 26 at the Walton County Courthouse in DeFuniak Springs.
Information on the budget is available on the Walton County web site at http://www.co.walton.fl.us.