By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great local journalism.
Commission reviews troubled year
09 budget balanced, but very precarious
Placeholder Image
Forsyth County News
Forsyth County’s chief financial officer took the commission down fiscal memory lane this week, though the memories weren’t so sunny.

Bill Thomas presented the board Tuesday with a 2008 year-end review that included the general fund status, final sales tax figures and water and sewer department losses.

The county cut its expenses by $12 million in 2008 to prepare for what Thomas described as a bleak outlook for 2009.

Despite its efforts, Thomas said Forsyth still had to pull $6.7 million from the county reserves to balance the budget.

Reserves must be maintained at 25 percent, or $21 million. The county’s 2009 general fund budget was adopted at $84.1 million.

Thomas said the projected fund balance is about $27 million for 2008, or $6 million above the safe amount for reserves, the balance of which are used to help determine the county’s bond rating or ability to issue bonds.

“In 2008, we began to feel the effects of the recession,” Thomas said during the work session. “It was a very troubled year.”

Thomas said sales tax revenues were down 9.1 percent in 2008. He said, however, that sales tax money from December “came in a lot higher than we had anticipated.”

He cautioned the board against relying on the trend.

“Until a definite pattern emerges, reliance on [sales tax revenue] will have to remain conservative,” Thomas said.

The current budget is balanced, Thomas said, “but it’s very precarious.”

“Revenues continue to be a major concern due to the weak economy, but it could have been worse,” he said, adding that the county’s “quick response to emerging budget problems averted what could have been a devastating fund balance.”

Another financial hit came in the water and sewer fund, which saw an operating loss of $11 million and a revenue fall of $20.6 million from 2007.

“Operating revenues less operating expenses equals operating loss,” Thomas explained, adding that operating expenses amount to department salaries, repair and maintenance, depreciation, internal service charges and the purchase of water and sewer flow.

Water and sewer tap fees decreased by $15.1 million from 2007, and water and sewer sales were down 24.8 percent and 12.5 percent, respectively.

Thomas said departmental budget cuts are “going to require extreme monitoring, because anything could throw this budget off.”

“You have to give a lot of credit to these departments for cutting down on spending like they’ve done,” he added.

“They’ve got to be commended for what they’ve done.”

County departments, including fire and safety, took 5 percent across-the-board budget cuts, saving the county $2.6 million. The county also trimmed 26 jobs in December.

“This has been a good team effort across the board,” County Commissioner Jim Harrell said.

In other business Tuesday, the board voted 5-0 to approve buying $600,900 in new utility billing software from Cogsdale.

“We just can’t operate with what we have anymore,” said Thomas, adding that the current software is “unable to meet increasing demands.”

E-mail Frank Reddy at