Budget talks continue at the committee level of the Effingham County Board to help cover an over $400,000 deficit in the county’s FY17 budget. The Tax and Finance Committee met in special session following the regular full board meeting Monday and discussed several possibilities to balance the spending plan for next year. Committee Chairman Rob Arnold said that while some spending cuts could be made, they would not save enough money to cover the deficit. Many county departments have already been gutted, but expenses continue to rise due to unforeseeable circumstances required and salary increases.
The committee also made it clear that while a property tax increase, of around 4.9 percent, was on the table they would try to avoid it. A more viable option, according to Arnold, would be a public safety tax that would be add an additional quarter-cent to current taxes.
The advantage of a sales tax is that it draws revenue from anyone spending money in the county, not just residents. The number discussed at Monday’s meeting was a quarter-cent increase on the current tax. Arnold suggested that any additional taxes would be used as part of a plan that would be available to the public.
Additionally, the county could use funds from their reserves to balance the budget, but with uncertainties from the state, County Board Chairman Jim Niemann recommended against pulling from those funds. In fact, increasing the public safety tax would be a chance to build the county’s reserves to use in an emergency. Arnold said the goal would to be to add an additional $3 million to those reserves in five years. 55 percent of the county’s budget comes from state funding.
The committee adjured and set another meeting for 6 p.m. Monday, November 28. Arnold said that they will need to decide on a solid plan by then.