Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge updated county commissioners on the current budget process and waste management plan at their Tuesday meeting.
At the beginning of budget considerations, Eldridge said the commission started out with a deficit in the general fund of about $2.5 million and a deficit in the school budget of about $3.4 million.
“Some of the things that we are working on right now that I hope we can have in front of the Budget Committee within just a few days is a plan that will allow us to balance the budget for 2014,” he said. “It’s got a lot of moving parts and it’s going to include a debt offering that would cover a lot of capital equipment and capital project needs throughout the county.”
All capital project equipment and needs estimates were taken out of departmental budgets and capital outlay bonds are being sought to cover the costs.
“We’ve got some extremely favorable pricing back,” Eldridge said.
Some of the money, approximately $950,000, would be used to replenish the school system’s fund balance and about $3 million would go toward capital projects the schools are in the process of identifying.
“They’ve got a list of a little over $20 million worth of things,” Eldridge said. “This year, they’ve got a little bit of a unique situation.”
A new line item in the school system’s Basic Education Plan budget calls for $260,000 from the state, which has been approved by auditors and the Department of Education for use to service debts.
“It is recurring capital outlay money,” Eldridge said. “What I’ve discussed with Director (Ron) Dykes is using that money to service the debt on nearly $3 million worth of borrowings.
“This will basically allow the school board to go after about $3 million worth of their needs as opposed to $260,000 worth. We are recognizing that their needs are starting to back up on us. We need to start addressing them.”
Also, a 10-year Waste Management negotiation plan requested last month by the Solid Waste Committee was taken to County Technical Assistance Service representative Kim Raia who approved the overall method the commission used to compare bids, Eldridge said. Letters, which brought up concerns about the plan, were previously received by the commission. Bid documents, a bid analysis and other documents were reviewed by Raia.
“We thought just to make sure, let’s send this to CTAS,” Eldridge said. “One of the issues that was raised in one of the letters was that they did not agree with our methodology in evaluating the bids. She confirmed that our methodology was in fact acceptable and it was correct in how we did it. She validated our projected cost savings.”
Raia came up with about $16,000 more a year in savings than the commission originally projected in their analysis, Eldridge said.
“She also validated our selection of Waste Management as the overall low-cost provider when considering transportation cost and disposal fees,” Eldridge said. “That’s the two big elements of our costs.”
County Attorney John Rambo has been given a template contract, which was received by Eldridge in recent weeks, to review.
“We’re working diligently to finalize that,” Eldridge said. “In the meantime, Waste Management has reduced the per ton tipping fee down to what they proposed in the bid.”
Employee assigned parking spaces at the courthouse were also considered by the commission. Eldridge said there is about $4,000 in expenses calculated for the project.
“This will be to number the spaces, seal and re-stripe the parking lot directly behind the county offices,” Eldridge said. “There’s parking issues downtown to begin with and I know a lot of effort has been put forth over the last few years to deal with those. This is just another measure we feel we can do as county employees to park further back and allow the space closest to Main Street to remain open for the people who are shopping on Main Street and doing business there.”