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Pike faces $2.5 million shortfall

Pike County commissioners received the proposed budget, with county manager Brandon Rogers noting there is currently a $2.5 million shortfall. Commissioners spent nearly an hour discussing budgeting issues, including the $400,000 budgeted to pay for an audit of county properties.

“The good news is, we saw a very low increase in expenditures this year. The bad news is, the revenue side is not so good. The last couple of years we have discussed an upcoming shortage. Last year, we had to cover some of the budget using the fund balance. We are trying to minimize fund balance usage as much as we can. We just do not have the revenue to cover the expenses and we have come to the point in time where we have to decide how we are going to fix this. The difference between expenditures and revenues is $2.5 million. We need to concentrate on operations and what to do to continue our level of service at this point and what it is going to cost to do that.”

Rogers said at one point this year, the county had to use ARPA funds to cover expenses and that causes concern. He said it is unsure how tax collection is going to go this year, but the county could potentially have to borrow funds again.

It was noted that the county’s sales ratio report is supposed to be from 38-42% but it is currently around 28-30%. He noted the county needs all properties reassessed to address the problem. He said several issues are tied together and if the county does an assessment, the digest could go up quite a bit and the rollback could go way down.

Rogers said the estimate of $400,000 budgeted to pay for property reassessments across the county as well as a flyover of properties might be a little high but it would help correct the county’s sales ratio.

“What the county did was high level re-evaluation, not a home-to-home re-evaluation with a team of 5-10 people who visit every single property and measure and take photos. That will give you a much better picture of what you have in the county,” said Rogers. “Re-evaluation is part of the assessor’s office’s duties but I’m afraid it has gotten to the point where they are not capable of that.”

Rogers noted the assessor’s office has enough employees to reassess about a third of the county each year and they have been doing all the residential, then all the commercial, then all the land.

Rogers said changes in the housing market really put them behind on the sales ratio.

“The situation needs to be fixed with appraised values and with staffing being able to keep up with the work. That’s two separate issues,” said Rogers.

Commissioners noted that the assessor’s office was hired to do the job and that it should get done. Commissioner Tim Daniel noted that he would like to wait to see the report from the Georgia Department of Revenue (which is currently doing an audit of the tax assessor’s office) before making a decision on whether to pay for the full county reassessment.

Rogers noted that the fire chief recommended going to 24 hours in one department and that the call volume continues to almost double year after year. He said the fire department moved to 12 hour shifts, seven days a week in the past year and the cost is one of the county’s largest increases compared to last year’s budget.

Commissioners only received the budget at their April 10 meeting and will do the first reading, second reading and final adoption over the next three meetings in order to have the budget adopted by May 28.

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