Final hearing on Fayette’s $46.7M budget June 26

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Without a property tax increase later this year, the county’s $46.7 million budget drew neither complaint nor praise from the public at the June 12 meeting of the Fayette County Commission.

No one commented during the first of two public hearings on the proposal, but a second and final opportunity is slated for the commission’s June 26 meeting at 7 p.m.

The budget includes a 2 percent cost of living adjustment (COLA) for all employees and another 2 percent one-time pay incentive for employees if their department meets budgeting guidelines and they are otherwise eligible. The COLA will cost $707,000 and would be the first such salary bump county employees have received since 2008, according to County Administrator Steve Rapson.

The budget as proposed would not dip into the county’s cash reserves (also known as fund balance), but instead is projected to add to them by about $500,000, Rapson said.

The $47.3 million budget includes $5.76 million in water system bond proceeds which will be used to improve the county’s two water treatment plants to improve water quality and meet EPD requirements, Rapson said.

The budget also includes $5.8 million in capital projects, among which is $1.5 million to refurbish the “old jail” facility so jail personnel can spread out the classifications of current inmates as necessary along with improving jail capacity at the same time, Rapson said.

There is also $297,000 set aside to rehabilitate the exterior of the county’s historic courthouse in downtown Fayetteville and another $150,000 for a “splash pad” addition to McCurry Park east of the city. The splash pad, essentially a cooling-off area with water jets for children to play in, could be ready by next summer if approved in the budget, according to Recreation Director Anita Godbee.

Other significant projects in the budget include:

• $25,000 for redesign of the county’s website;

• $50,000 for the countywide visioning effort;

• $25,000 to revamp the county’s permits and inspections process to make it more streamlined for the business community;

• $25,000 to install an in-ground electrical grid system at the historic downtown courthouse for events hosted there such as the annual Courthouse Art Show and the like.

• $15,000 for sidewalks as a matching grant for “Safe Routes to Schools” initiatives;

• $15,000 to continue the county’s successful weight watchers health wellness program; and

• $5,000 towards the Blended Heritage Day program hosted by the Fayette County Public Library; this figure in the past has been reached by seeking donations from the community, Rapson explained.

Also in the budget, Rapson said, is $450,000 for a “healthcare stabilization fund” to cover potential escalating healthcare costs due to the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. That figure is actually savings the county realized last year on its healthcare plan, and this year’s health insurance coverage has no increases for employees in terms of co-pays and the like, Rapson added.