CountyLogoMdState legislators set aside this week to more closely examine the Governor’s proposal for the amended FY 2013 budget and the FY 2014 budget. A variety of state agencies testified before appropriations committees to explain the impact of the recommendations on programs and services. State revenues continue to show an upward trend; however, increased spending requirements in major areas such as education and healthcare combined with an uncertainty in federal funding resulted in most state agencies taking a three percent budget cut. Oftentimes, budget cuts on the state level can result in service delivery costs being passed on to counties so we will be closely watching how the budget process develops .

Jail Reimbursements

One of the priorities of Georgia counties and our association, ACCG, was the ability for counties to submit sentencing packages electronically to the Department of Corrections (DOC). Counties are not reimbursed for housing state inmates until the DOC receives and accepts the sentencing package. In the past, this process could take months, resulting in counties housing state inmates without reimbursement and the cost for state inmates being borne by the local taxpayer.

Last year, as a part of the Criminal Justice Reform, a requirement was passed for DOC to accept electronic sentencing packages. Butts County is now submitting sentencing packages electronically. The Governor’s FY 2013 Amended Budget includes an additional $14 million in funding for reimbursement to Georgia counties, bringing the total allocation for FY 2013 to $27 million. This increase in reimbursements is a direct result of the implementation of submitting sentencing packages electronically.

Water Planning

Water resources are essential for economic development and the support of growing communities. Governor Nathan Deal has placed focus on ensuring that Georgia’s long-term water needs are considered. The FY 2013 budget proposal includes a $25 million bond package to be managed by the Georgia Environmental Financing Authority (GEFA) for the Governor’s Water Supply Program. Butts County Commission Chairman Gator Hodges sits on the Board of Directors for GEFA.

In addition, the FY 2014 budget recommends $500,000 for Statewide Water Plan Regional Council activities. It is envisioned that $350,000 of this funding will support two meetings of each of the regional water councils. The remaining $150,000 will be used for grants to fund water monitoring activities, which will require a local match. It is important to note that water monitoring has traditionally been funded by the state and this mechanism likely will gradually shift this responsibility to county governments.

Cooperative Extension/Public Libraries Slated for Reductions

Both the FY2013 amended budget and the FY 2014 budget for the Board of Regents include reductions to Cooperative Extension and public libraries. Cooperative Extension is slated for an $884,000 reduction in each budget in the area of personal services which will likely have a direct impact on county extension offices. The budget reduction for public libraries is listed as $966,000 in each budget.

General Assembly Reconvenes Next Week

The General Assembly reconvenes on Monday, January 28 for Day 5 of the 40-day legislative session. The schedule for the rest of the week has not been set at this time. Legislation is expected to start moving quickly next week. I will publish major updates that may occur.

Have a safe weekend!