By DOTTY NIST
In a July 12 presentation to county commissioners, Interim Walton County Administrator Gerry Demers recommended no change in the county’s millage rate for the 2012-12 fiscal year.
Demers’ presentation took place at a Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) budget workshop at the Walton County Courthouse in DeFuniak Springs.
With the total taxable value of properties in the county having risen by just $281,820, the current millage rate of 3.5563 is projected to generate slightly less $37.5 million in the new fiscal year. This represents approximately $5,000 more than was generated through ad valorem taxes in the current fiscal year.
One mill equals one dollar on each $1,000 of taxable property value.
The county is currently eyeing an operating budget of slightly less than $94.6 million, representing an increase of slightly less than $3.3 million over the operating budget for the current fiscal year.
Demers reported that Local Option Gas Tax Revenues were up by $134,000, that building permits were up by 64 percent as compared with the same time last year, and that bed tax collections were showing a 20-percent increase. At slightly less than $87 million, total revenues for the new fiscal year are expected to exceed those of the current fiscal year by almost $5.7 million.
The bad news involved challenges posed by aging county vehicles and equipment that had not been replaced in recent years, the rising cost of health insurance for employees, and the recent loss of good employees, partly credited to poor morale.
Demers proposed taking $1.4 million for landfill reserves to pay off an outstanding loan taken for infrastructure improvements, unfunding positions remaining unfilled for some time, and negotiating for savings with health insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield and/or tweaking health insurance plan coverage for employees. He recommended cutting $5 million involving travel, equipment, and similar items from budgets put forth by department and division directors.
To help retain county employees, Demers proposed a three-percent cost of living increase for employees, which would be their first real increase since 2007.
The addition of personnel was recommended for some BCC departments, but overall, Demers explained, only a net one-half position increase was proposed. A net one-position increase was proposed for the constitutional officers, and the South Walton Tourist Development Council (TDC) is proposing the addition of three positions.
The Walton County Tax Collector is to provide a budget at a later date which is expected to call for the addition of two positions and a 3-percent cost of living increase for employees….
Read the full story in the July 19, 2012 edition of the Herald Breeze.