The Milledgeville-Baldwin County Chamber’s Eggs & Issues series focused on “The State of Baldwin County” Wednesday morning at Crockett’s cafeteria. County commissioner and board chairman Sammy Hall, District 3, dove into challenging topics affecting the local government.
His opening statements to a packed crowd were positive.
“I’m here to tell you up front that the state of the county is much better than the state of the nation. We do not have a deficit. We must have a balanced budget, and we do so,” Hall said.
• Challenges over the last four years
Hall said no one was spared during the economic downturn. Over the past four years the county has reduced the budget by $4 million, while cutting or freezing more than 50 positions.
The net tax digest declined $86 million as well. The effect these figures have on services is not always well understood by the general public, according to the commissioner.
“Constituents may want new or expanded services while others are demanding that taxes be cut,” Hall said. “Sometimes the same ones that ask for more services are the same ones seeking lower taxes.”
Baldwin County is bound by the state constitution to provide mandated services that shift down from state to local government.
The county acts as the local administrative arm with limited discretion.
Hall reminded the public they pay for the court system, public and mental health, sheriff and jails, emergency management, property tax administration services and elections.
Sixty-five percent of property taxes go to the board of education with the remainder totaling $8 million allotted for the county government.
The county’s cash flow issue originates from the calendar year budget cycle. Fall taxes pay for services already provided.
The commissioner said the board needs other financing options to build a contingency fund. Any reserve would help defray cost and prepare for emergencies.