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County revenues continue to fall
Ex-official blasts board
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Forsyth County News

The Forsyth County commission has given final approval to cost-saving measures approved last year in preparation for the 2009 budget.

In a 4-0 vote Thursday night, commissioners approved a resolution showing a reduction in expenditures from $87.8 million to $77.1 million.

Commission Chairman Charles Laughinghouse did not attend the meeting.

Bill Thomas, the county's chief financial officer, told the commission that revenues for the general fund have dropped by $6.2 million and revenues for special, enterprise and internal service funds have also fallen.

“Since this resolution was initially adopted by the board at the last work session sales tax revenues for September came in substantially lower than what we were anticipating,” Thomas said. “We expect that trend to continue through the rest of the year.”

Though the county expected $77.9 million in revenues for 2009, Thomas said, “We’re not anticipating actually receiving those and there may be further budget reductions until the end of the year.”

Before the resolution came up for a vote, former commissioner Dave Richard reprimanded the board for its spending practices.

“While mired in a year of fiscal challenges this county has never seen before, and facing an upcoming year with even less money than this year, you five bastions of fiscal conservatism have proven one thing,” Richard said. “You’re all qualified to run for Congress under the Democratic party banner.”

Richard went on to accuse the board of wasting taxpayer dollars in various ways, including voting in September to spend $450,000 on artificial turf for athletic fields at Fowler Park in south Forsyth.

And that, he said, came “after your own park and rec chief tells you it’ll last 10 years and save between $30,000 and $40,000 a year in maintenance costs.”

“The best-case scenario you just did just cost taxpayers $450,000 in order to save $400,000,” he said. “That’s a net loss of $50,000 for you math whizzes out there.

"And the worst case, you spent $450,000 to save us $300,000. That would be a net taxpayer loss of $150,000 for you rocket scientists.”

Commissioners did not respond to Richard's remarks.

The commission also gave final approval, in a 3-1 vote, to a year-long contract with the Public Finance Management Group for financial services for future bond issues.

Commissioner Brian Tam opposed the measure.

PFM could charge the county anywhere from $16,500 to $75,000 over the next year, depending on the amount of bonds issued during that time frame.

Thomas told the board bonds will not be issued without the commission’s consent and the company will receive county funds only if bonds are issued. He also said PFM will provide free consultation and evaluation of existing bonds.

The county hired the firm for the same services last year at the recommendation of Thomas, who had worked with the group before.

“During the 2008 bond issue the PFM group on the day of sale was able to substantially restructure some long-term bonds that we were having difficulty selling on the market,” Thomas said. “They were able to restructure them and saved the county over $354,000 during the life of these bonds in interest savings.”

He said the company also saved the county some money in underwriting fees.

Richard also took issue with using PFM, saying last year the company confirmed the county was already getting the best deal on bonds.

“In fact, the monetary savings produced that your CFO told you about were with the bond issuing company, not the firm you originally hired,” Richard said.

“The only people thriving in this down economy are some of the third party firms recommended by the CFO while you lay off employees you can no longer afford.”

In early October, 30 Forsyth County government employees lost their jobs. The positions were cut to offset the 2009 budget deficit and a larger gap projected for 2010 figures.

Also eliminated were 24 unfilled, vacant positions.