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County expects revenues to dip by half-million

ALBANY -- Dougherty County government officials are bracing for what they expect will be a $500,000 reduction in revenue brought by several factors, including a bit of good news for local economic development.

Last year, County Administrator Richard Crowdis implemented restrictions on spending in an effort to slow the slide of declining revenues. Departments were ordered to make mandatory cuts, hiring was frozen in all areas except public safety, and raises -- cost-of-living, merit and longevity -- were slashed, in hopes that when the bottom line finally bottomed out, that effect on the county's reserves wouldn't put the commission in a position to consider raising property taxes.

The measure, to a large degree, worked, and the county actually saved money by not having to pull as much from its reserve fund as expected.

This year, the continuing contraction of the local economy, coupled with incentives given two local manufacturers to stay in Albany, shrinking property tax assessments and a decrease in the value of a mill, will likely force the government to keep current spending controls in place and could force deeper cuts.

Preliminary estimates suggest that the combination of economic factors will cause the county's revenues to drop by $500,000 at a time when every penny is sacred, Crowdis said.

"In a recession, the economy shrinks," he said. "This is just a combination of several things that are happening."

Ironically, among the factors contributing to the shortage in revenues are two agreements recently made by manufacturing giants Procter & Gamble and MillerCoors, which have agreed to stick around in Dougherty County for another 20 years.

Incentives that were promised as a part of that deal include tax credits that will reduce the amount the two have to pay the government.

Additionally, county tax officials say the percentage of tax revenue generated from property taxes has declined between 2008 and 2009.

Tax Director Denver Hooten told The Herald recently that the 2009

assessments had property taxed at about 36.8 percent, which was down from more than 39 percent in 2008.

If the county falls below 36 percent, the state Department of Revenue will issue a fine until it rises back to between 36 and 40 percent, she said.