The Franklin County Board of Supervisors got an overview of a proposed $143.8 million budget on March 19 that calls for no tax increases.
Deputy County Administrator Chris Whitlow called it a “maintenance” budget that funded expenditure pressures, like the rising costs of services to at-risk youth under the Children’s Services Act, and continued to support strategic priorities outlined by supervisors.
From 2000 to 2010, Franklin County enjoyed significant gains in population, adding nearly 9,000 residents. During that time, the county’s new discretionary revenue grew by an average of 7 percent, Whitlow said, meaning an additional $2.5 million to $4 million in funding each year.
Since then, Franklin County’s growth has been stagnant. In this decade, it has averaged about a million dollars in new discretionary revenue annually, Whitlow said.
The proposed 2019-20 budget shows 1.34 percent growth over the current year. Aside from the money generated by tax increases adopted last year, Franklin County has seen little growth — just over $1 million in new discretionary revenue not yet allocated to any particular project.
Rising costs associated with the Children’s Services Act threaten to eat up that limited discretionary revenue, Whitlow said, calling it one of the most significant budgetary issues heading into the 2019-20 fiscal year.
Franklin County’s overall expenditures under the Children’s Services Act have increased by approximately 40 percent over the past five years.
In the past fiscal year, expenditures ran more than a million dollars over budget. And the trend looks to be continuing this year, county officials have said.
As a result, the county plans to add $1.17 million to its CSA budget next year to cover private special education day placements, a major driver in increasing expenditures. The state reimburses the county for these expenditures, typically at a rate of about 70 percent. The boost to the CSA budget is expected to cost Franklin County $380,904.
Whitlow proposed sharing that cost with the school division, with each providing $190,452. If CSA costs are reined in and those funds are not needed, he recommended the money be returned to the county and school division operating budgets.
The additional funding for CSA will account for only a portion of the county’s $1.07 million in new discretionary revenue. The proposed budget suggested the remainder be split between the school division and county government, with each receiving $368,855 and $325,831, respectively.
The county budget does not provide for any new full-time positions or programs. However, it does allow for a 2 percent cost of living increase for all employees. Finance Director Brian Carter said that would cost approximately $445,000.
Superintendent Mark Church also presented a $90.9 million operating budget adopted earlier this month by the school board that sought an additional $3.8 million in county funds. But after Whitlow’s presentation, it appears the school division is poised to receive far less from the county than officials had hoped.
Although enrollment has been shrinking for several years, resulting in less funding from the state, Church said, many of the school division’s costs are fixed. From the 2007-08 school year to present, Church said, the division has lost 751 students or 10.3 percent of its population.
The board of supervisors plans to review the budget proposed March 19 and hold at least one work session to discuss it before a public hearing and a vote, both of which are expected to be held next month.
The new budget and unchanged tax rates would take effect July 1.