Effingham County proposes budget without increase to property tax, millage rates

EFFINGHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - Effingham County's proposed 2019 budget doesn't increase taxes and focuses on funding for first responders to improve public safety.

The county has $28.7 million budgeted in the general fund and $56.8 million budgeted for special and capital funds for the 2019 fiscal year. The proposed budget includes 30 new road construction projects, 33 new jobs, the completion of a recreation facility at Morgan Park and new public safety equipment.

Effingham County Administrator Steve Davis said his focus when preparing this budget was using tax dollars residents are already paying and rearranging how they are spent to meet county needs.

"We're really trying to utilize every dollar to maximize our exposure and [are] doing a lot of great things in this new budget," Davis said.

The county is reorganizing and consolidating administrative departments to fund new initiatives without increasing taxes.

The general fund will pay for 14 new positions, including three detention officers at the Effingham County Jail, two school resources officers and two finance department jobs.  Eleven are full-time positions and 3 part-time positions.

The county has 100 projects listed in its capital budget, which should cost $27.2 million. That budget will fund a new recreation facility at Morgan Park, an administrative building, new fire equipment, new sheriff's office equipment, vehicles and radios, road projects and water and sewer bond projects. It also funds 16 new positions, including code enforcement officers and about a dozen fire department jobs.

"We're really focusing on public safety this year," Davis said. "We're adding 12 new firefighters, and we're opening two new stations, as well as three new fire trucks that will be for the two new stations [and] phasing one out to retire and replace it. On the sheriff's department, we've got 18 new vehicles there. We've got a new ambulance for EMS."

Davis said a big part of the proposed equipment purchases for the Effingham County Sheriff's Office, fire department and E-911 center is overhauling and replacing its current radio system.

"The CAD system is being replaced at the E-911 center, at what we call the MACC, and then also the radios that are both the handhelds, as well as the car radios, are all being phased out," Davis said. "Motorola is using a new system. Every department is getting those new radios."

Fire Cheif Clint Hodges said the new system should improve not only communication but also safety for first responders by allowing them to use wifi to during an emergency.

"There's a lot going on in this budget, and it's exciting that we're trying to provide the best services and maximize the money that the taxpayers are giving us to supply them with government services," Davis said.

The county is holding two public meetings on June 5 and June 19 at 5 p.m. where commissioners will discuss, propose changes and eventually vote on the budget.

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