BALDWIN COUNTY, Ala. (WALA) – After weeks of discussions and concessions from county departments, the Baldwin County Commission said Thursday, August 28 they have a balanced budget for next year. Commissioners said it’s meant sacrifices in some areas but good news for county workers.
“It looks like today we are where we need to be to have a balanced budget,” said Baldwin County Commission Budget Chairman Chris Elliott.
It’s taken county staff countless hours of number crunching and several budget meetings to get to this point. Many county departments are going without new vehicles, won’t fill open positions and overall have trimmed expenses down to the bone.
The last piece of the puzzle, said county officials, is a double-edged sword. The good news is that all county employees will get a cost of living allowance, or COLA. The bad news is, they won’t see it until next April.
Baldwin officials said by cutting the one-percent COLA down to six months, the general fund will be balanced.
“We weren’t sure that we were going to be able to do it, and it looks like at this point, even in a really tight budget, to make sure county employees know that we appreciate what they do,” Elliott said.
A big reason for that was Sheriff Hoss Mack agreeing to the concession. The sheriff’s office has made many allowances through the budget process. He had originally asked the Commission for a 2.5 percent cost of living allowance.
“So that one percent, one and a half percent reduction off the overall budget has helped make up for about $650,000 to $700,000 that we’ve trimmed out of our requested budget,” Sheriff Mack said.
The last item the commissioners need to take a look at is a highway department account, with nearly $16 million in surplus funds. Those funds have built up little by little over the last 20 years or so and commissioners will be meeting with the department on Friday to see how much of that money can be used for new projects.
The $15.9 million isn’t just there for the taking. Some of it is designated as emergency funds. Other parts of that money are earmarked for specific projects.
That’s why the commission is meeting with the highway department.
“Getting to the bottom of what $16 million is. If $16 million is emergency funds and unrestricted funds, where did the unrestricted funds come from and what commitments do we have still obligated to the county to get to what the net number is. The net number is not going to be $16 million,” said District 3 commissioner Tucker Dorsey.
The County Commission has until September 30 to pass a balanced budget.