Budget the focus of Dougherty retreat

ALBANY, Ga. -- The Dougherty County Commission's retreat Thursday was focused largely on talk about how it will persevere into the next fiscal year as revenues remain stagnant, officials say.

County Administrator Richard Crowdis is researching various options to present to the commission before commissioners vote on a budget for the FY2012 budget in June.

Those options, he said, will put everything on the table from existing practices like unpaid holidays, canceling training not required by the state and delaying capital purchases to the impact of raising the property tax rate.

Both the city and the county governments have not raised their net millage rates since before 2005 according to information obtained from the Georgia Department of Revenue.

"We don't have a lot of revenue options," Crowdis said. "We don't have the resources that cities normally have. So we're limited in how to generate revenue."

That leaves the county few ways to balance its budget but to tinker with the millage rate or continue to furlough employees and cut services.

Dougherty County Tax Director Denver Hooten and Finance Director Karen Goff were part of the discussions Thursday.

There is a movement to ensure that local governments are getting the proper amount of tax revenue both from sales taxes and property taxes in hopes of avoiding a millage rate increase.

This week, the city commission joined an earlier vote by the county commission to share business license information with the state Department of Revenue so that the state could determine who had business licenses but weren't paying their sales taxes.

The hope from government officials is that by reconciling the list those businesses who have not been paying sales taxes will have to, which will make both the state and local revenues climb.

The Dougherty County Board of Assessors is also taking up a state-led initiative to review all tax-exempt properties in Dougherty County to insure they meet the standards for exemption.

According to the DOR, as of 2010 there are 3,535 tax exempt properties in Albany whose 40 percent taxable value is listed at more than $402.3 million.