By Maggie Behringer
While Whitfield County's sales tax revenues are up significantly from this time last year, officials are characterizing the county's present financial position as unsustainable.
"At some point we're going to have to make some difficult decisions which will affect people," said County Commission Chairman Mike Babb. "It's either going to affect employees of the county or taxpayers of the county."
Tax receipts show sales tax has generated $3.6 million for the county from January to March, typically a low period for such revenue but a 25 percent jump from the same period last year.
Georgia officials are reporting the state's sales tax revenue has fallen 10.4 percent from this time in 2009.
Whitfield County Finance Officer Ron Hale anticipates property taxes to bring in $15.5 million.
Even with the encouraging momentum of sale taxes, expenses are outpacing revenues. The 2010 budget projects a $6.6 million deficit for the year, and March financial statements show expenditures already exceeding revenues by $5.1 million.
The county has yet to experience a tax raise or cuts to staff or services, which Mr. Babb noted is unusual in the current economic condition of the state.
BY THE NUMBERS
* $40,247,600 -- 2010 annual budget revenues
* $46,853,567 -- 2010 annual budget expenditures
* $5,855,990 -- 2010 Year to date revenues
* $10,982,639 -- 2010 Year to date expenditures
Whitfield has avoided cuts and tax hikes through an $8.4 million addition to the general fund in 2008 for a total balance of $23 million. The sum was remaining money from the 2001 special local option sales tax projects, specifically a waterline project completed under projected cost.
"Fundamentally, that's what has allowed us to do this without any disturbance to services," Mr. Hale said of the addition.
But by the end of this budget year, the county will have exhausted the cushion, although it will still have a fund balance reserve of 137 days.
Currently, the county administrator is meeting with each department to review requests. The second round of reviews will include the Board of Commissioners.
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