DEAR EDITOR:

The fiscal year 2020 budget process is nearly complete. This process is a long and arduous one that begins shortly after the first of the year.

In the beginning stages, our chief financial officer meets with each department head where they review the department’s wishes and needs.

Beginning with the FY 2019 budget the Board of Commissioners (BOC) saw a need for the commissioners to become more hands-on. In May of the past two years we have hosted a workshop in which we take an in-depth look at each line of the budget. Beyond that workshop, as the budget is reaching the end stages, each commissioner met one on one with the CFO to review the proposed budget. It is a long and tedious process but one we feel the people of Butts County deserve.

The FY 2019 budget was one that saw deep cuts and creativity to get spending under control. This took cooperation from every department head both elected and non-elected. The BOC was very appreciative for the level of cooperation we saw from all involved. The FY 2020 was different in that the tough cuts had been made the prior year. The challenge this year was addressing an employee compensation package that we felt had fallen below industry standards. We have hard-working employees that stood beside us during a year of severe cuts and they deserve to be fairly compensated. A credit to the commissioners and staff, this budget will address three major needs. We will maintain the current level of health insurance coverage without an increase in cost to the employee. The increase in premiums have been absorbed by the county. We are increasing the multiplier from 1.5% of an employee’s average salary for each year worked to 2%, which means an employee retiring with 35 years of service would go from 52.5% of their average yearly salary to 70% pension funding. We also decreased the vesting period to seven years. This will make the retirement plan significantly better. Also, we evaluated salaries and will adjust salaries for some departments that were found to be low for the industry.

The FY 2019 budget saw us take cuts to avoid raising the millage above the current 12.209. The FY 2020 budget will see these improvements for employees while still maintaining that 12.209 millage rate. That 12.209 is significantly lower than any of our neighboring counties and will be the third year in a row it has been held at this rate. This was made possible due in part to increased host fees due to the county from privately owned landfills. This required a lot of work by the BOC and Sen. Burt Jones. We are thankful for his partnership with the county. It should also be noted that this will be the first time since 1994 that the total millage (county, school and hospital) will be under 30 mills of tax.

I want to thank our staff for their hard work and creativity to keep our standards high and the cost to the people low. Thank you to the constitutional officers for working with staff to make this possible. Thank you to the other four commissioners: Vice Chairman Keith Douglas, Commissioner Russ Crumbley, Commissioner Joe Brown and Commissioner Robert Henderson. Each one of them has brought their strengths and willingness to provide the time necessary to see this budget through and the people of Butts County are better off because of it.

Finally, thank you to the employees of Butts County. This budget is our thank you to you.

— KEN RIVERS, chairman

Butts County Board of Commissioners

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