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What changes were made during finance committee's first meeting for 2020 budget

Forsyth County officials kicked off the 2019 budget process this week, and it should be approved earlier than in previous years.

The Forsyth County Finance Committee met to discuss the budget and a range of factors going into the process. No formal action was taken at the meeting.

Below are a few items brought up by the committee.


Process change

One of the most notable changes to the process compared to previous years is that the budget will now be adopted in early October rather than November.

County Manager Eric Johnson said this would give some county departments more time to prepare for the budget taking effect at the beginning of the new year.

“The other thing I think we’ve heard is concern that the budget doesn’t get adopted until like November,” Johnson said. “If you adopt the budget in October, then it allows equipment orders to start to be queued up, it allows departments to go through the process knowing they’ve got positions approved. They can’t start them until January, but it allows them to go through the process to prep them.” Johnson said.


Commissioner involvement

Thursday’s meeting was attended by Forsyth County Commissioners Cindy Jones Mills, Molly Cooper and Dennis Brown, who are members of the committee.

Mills pointed out that commissioners need to be heavily involved with the process as they are often the most visible face to the community.

“That’s one reason that I really wanted board members to be a part of this process because we get the complaints. We get the complaints about customer service,” Mills said. “Having been a part of it all those years, you know what departments are doing. You know that the planning department has been talking about getting software for so many years or you know that they’re getting new implementation, so you can tell your constituents, ‘I know they’ve been working on that.’”


Road projects

Members of the committee also dove into costs for road projects across the county, some of which have come in much higher than originally expected, especially projects being funded by the $200 million transportation bond approved by voters in 2014.

“When you get a $20 million increase on a road project that impacts the budget,” Brown said. “Imagine if we had two of those across two departments and it was $40 million. There’s no way we can operate like that.”

One issue, particularly with projects whose estimations were given some time ago, is the increase in supplies and other costs.

Mills said another issue with projects planned before the economy recovered from the recent downturn is the state is also catching up on road projects.

“Nobody knew that we were going to be in a bidding war against the state on all these projects,” she said. “When we got this $200 million bond, nobody knew House Bill 170 [a transportation funding bill] was going to pass, and there was not enough concrete plants in the state, there’s not enough workers and materials and everything was going to go through the roof. We’re actually bidding against each other. That’s what’s hurting a lot.”