FORSYTH COUNTY — The process of finalizing the 2017 Forsyth County budget is in full swing, and the county is looking at all kinds of ways to save money.
In recent weeks, the county’s finance committee has met with various departments to separate budgetary needs from wants, with the goal of a balanced budget.
At a meeting in April, officials said the county is expected to bring in about $116 million in tax revenue next year, up from about $109 million projected for 2016. Dave Gruen the county’s chief financial officer, said at the time that initial requests totaled more than $124 million, leaving a gap of about $8.6 million between projected revenues and expenditures.
During the meetings with departments, common budgetary items, like new employees or vehicles, were discussed, though the county also looked at some more unconventional ways to save, such as what departments spend on refreshments like water and coffee.
According to the county’s finance department, in 2016 the county allotted a total of $24,650 for coffee and water and $23,900 had been requested by departments for 2017. The committee has already cut $1,000 from that request.
“We always watch the budget and we look for little ways we can cut $100 here or $1,000 [there],” Commission Chairman Pete Amos said. “From $200 to $500, it doesn’t seem like a lot in one budget, but you get 30 departments there, that’s when you realize that you’re spending a lot of money on unnecessary things, little luxuries that we need to watch for our county.”
Amos said that the county had initially allowed some departments to purchase bottled water due to complaints on water quality at the former Forsyth County Courthouse, but that many of those had moved to the new courthouse.
He said that the county had to make cuts during the economic downturn and is still leveling out employee salaries and that looking at odds and ends was better than increasing the millage rate.
“Our millage rate is low compared to some other counties around [Forsyth], and our services are very high, so we have to check everything,” Amos said. “We’re just trying to be a very efficient county, but also the citizens want more services and good services.
“It’s a fine line between ‘what can we do’ and ‘what do we have to do.’”
The budget process will continue throughout the year, with the goal of adoption in December. The next step will be looking at the budget after the first round of cuts.
The finance committee is made up of Amos, Gruen, County Manager Doug Derrer and Commissioners Todd Levent, Cindy Jones Mills and Brian Tam.