LEESBURG, Ga. -- It's still early in the budgeting process, but Lee County Commissioners have been given a wish list by department heads and elected officials that represents a 10 percent increase in spending.
It's a wish list that likely will be pared.
"A 10 percent increase in the budget being proposed is pretty startling," said Greg Frich, District 5 county commissioner and chairman of the budget committee.
"It's very important for elected officials and department heads to know that this board of commissioners values the principal of keeping taxes where they are."
Frich, who serves with Commission Chairman Rick Muggridge on the Budget Committee, said the requests were submitted to Lee Finance Director Heather Kittrell.
Lee County's current budget is $22,120,639. The requested budget is $24,253,285.
Kittrell said the budget requested by department heads and elected officials is $2,364,477 more than projected revenues.
"Ultimately, that number needs to be zero," she said.
Kittrell said the elected officials and department heads submitted their requests mostly without administration guidance.
"They did what they always do," she said. "What they feel like they need, they asked for."
Kittrell said new personnel account for about 50 percent of the growth on the wish list. The proposed increases in expenses include $1.24 million in new full-time positions.
Kittrell projected several new sources of revenue for Lee commissioners for Fiscal Year 2013-2014. Sources include $349,450, which the county is projected to receive because of a favorable recalculation of sharing local-option sales taxes.
Also, tax officials believe growth in the tax digest should generate $205,000 in new dollars at the existing tax millage rate.
These two figures, along with an increase in ambulance fee collection, superior court fines, rent and insurance premium tax, could result in the commission having $793,360 in new money.
However, that is offset by several projected decreases in revenue. This year, the commission has used $959,577 in reserve funds to balance the budget. If the commission chooses not to carry over this amount, that means the revenue will be reduced by that total.
Other expected reductions in court fees and sanitation collections will bring the projected reduced revenue total to $1,118,077. However, that assumes the commission will not use the reserve funds in the new budget.
Interim County Administrator Lynn Taylor is expected to meet with department heads and elected officials to discuss the requests before county commissioners begin meeting with each of them during April.
"We have not afforded Lynn Taylor the opportunity to do that," said Frich. "She was not involved in the first part of the budget development process, so we're going to take a step back and let her do a assessment."
Taylor has just completed her first week on the job as Lee's interim county administrator.
Frich said the budget committee lost some time in the process because of the departure of administrator Tony Massey and the selection of Taylor as interim administrator.
"I am very confident, however, in what I have seen in the first days of Lynn Taylor's service," Frich said. "I feel we'll regain that ground and more. I've been impressed."
Frich said his major goal is to "continue the high standards of services to our community and be most responsible in using the taxpayers' money."