“We’re trying to work it out,” said Cleburne County Probate Judge Ryan Robertson, who serves as County Commission chairman.
The raise he’s envisioning is 2.5 percent across the board, but he and County Administrator Steve Swafford are still juggling the numbers, Robertson said.
Cleburne County is well into the budget process and the proposed fiscal year 2014 budget is on schedule to be approved at the Sept. 16 commission meeting, Swafford said.
The budget will be smaller this year, mainly because expenses related to the Mountain Center were paid this year, Swafford said.
This year, the county has been operating under a $7.6 million budget that required it dip into reserves for about $800,000. In the next fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1, he expects the budget to balance without dipping into reserves, he said.
“We’re not expecting the amount of capital purchases that we had in fiscal year 2013,” Swafford said.
The county is planning some major expenditures including rebuilding up to 12 bridges. Officials were able to secure Alabama Transportation Improvement Grants for the work, but it will require some funding from the county level, he said. That money will not be included in the upcoming budget because right now, it’s an unknown, Swafford said.
County officials don’t know how much they will be required to pay for the bridge work, Swafford said. In addition, they doesn’t know how many bridges the county will be able to get to in the upcoming year, he said.
“The bridge projects will be addressed as they come up,” he said.
In order to prepare, Swafford said, the county will have to stay “very liquid as far as cash on hand,” Swafford said.
As Swafford and Robertson create the budget, they are focused on creating a balanced budget – a requirement under state law, Swafford said.
They also will focus on the county’s core mission of serving residents through Emergency Management Agency, 911, the Sheriff’s Office, the Probate Office and courthouse, along with the Road Department, they said.
He expects to have a proposed budget ready by Aug. 26. He will email the document to commissioners about a week before their Sept. 3 work session.
Commissioners also have their priorities as they review the budget. Commissioner Emmett Owen said his No. 1 priority shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.
“I think everybody knows that Emmett Owen is about growth and promoting the county,” he said.
He will look at the budget with an eye toward economic development, Owen said.
He’d like to see some money set aside for work in the Heflin Industrial Park, in Hollis Crossroads and anywhere else in the county there is an opportunity for growth, Owen said.
“Right now, we have no funding to promote economic growth for the county as a whole,” Owen said. “We need to let people know we’re open for business.”
But the county has to pay its bills first, Owen said.
Commissioner Bobby Brooks said economic development is also his top priority. But he’d also like to do something for youth and senior citizens in his district. He’d like to build a baseball field and community center in Hollis Crossroads on land owned by Hollis Fire and Rescue, Brooks said.
Brooks, who works in construction, has the equipment to do the work, he said. The county would have to pay for materials only, he said. But, Brooks said, the budget will be tight and he’s not sure it will be possible.
The commissioners will have an opportunity to make any revisions at that work session, Robertson said.
“There’s always give and take every year,” Robertson said.
The revised budget will be sent to all department heads and staff so they can review it, he said.
At the Sept. 16 commission meeting, department heads will have a chance to comment on the changes before the commission approves the budget, he said.
The budget must be approved before the end of September. It will go into effect on Oct. 1.
Staff writer Laura Camper 256-463-2872. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.