Sullivan County budget process underway

J. H. Osborne • Mar 4, 2019 at 11:40 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County officials have set a goal of getting a proposed 2019-2020 budget in front of the full Sullivan County Commission by the middle of next month. The larger goal: get the budget approved before the fiscal year covered by that budget begins on July 1.

It would be the first time in several years that a budget was approved before the 12-month fiscal cycle begins.

If a proposed budget is presented by middle of April, it could be voted on as early as the middle of May.

Requests for funding went out to all county departments and other agencies earlier than in past years and the commission’s committee’s have already been reviewing budget requests. The county’s budget committee is scheduled to meet Thursday at 4 p.m., although no agenda has been announced. Committee budget hearings are scheduled to continue this week and next.

The county’s current budget, totaling nearly  nearly $184.5 million, wasn’t approved until September of last year. It kept a tax rate of $2.55 and was balanced with nearly $7.3 million worth of fund balances.

A few departments have requested increases for the upcoming budget. The Sullivan County Highway Department is seeking to increase its total operating budget by about $1.4 million — including more than $1 million in new money for asphalt. The requested increase would double the department’s ability to pave county roads (they do no work in the cities, despite city residents paying a portion of the taxpayer-generated revenue they receive) from about 21 miles a year to about 42 miles a year, budget officials said. The department is not asking to hire additional workers, but is seeking to have its budget increased by about $130,000 to cover an employee pay raise approved by the commission last year.

The highway department’s operating budget this year totaled $9.26 million. The request increase, coupled with some line item decreases, would bring it to about $10.59 million. When state aid-funded projects are added in, the overall highway department budget would total about $11.39 million.

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