Tift County commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday in a called meeting to keep the current millage rate set at 12.183 for both the incorporated and unincorporated areas of the county.
The rate was set at .317 mills for the Special Services Tax District, which includes Ty Ty and Omega. Last year's rate was .312 mills.
According to final budget figures released to The Gazette Thursday, the general government budget is up 4.92 percent, from $2,899,352.05 this year to $3,042,071.10 for 2015. The final budget for the general fund for 2015 is $26,114,356.85, up 5.98 percent from this year's budget, which was $24,641,832.39.
The 2015 budget across the board saw increases in the cost of employee health insurance, such as the 47.69 percent increase in the Elections office, and 34,80 percent for county commissioners. The 2015 budget for commissioners is $343,776.57, up 10.15 percent from this year's budget of $$312,098.63.
In the solicitor's office, health insurance for employees went up significantly, 216.11 percent, from the budgeted $11,508 for 2014 to $36,378.27 for 2015. The total budget for the solicitor's office for 2015 is $222,067.57, up 38.62 percent from the 2014 amount of $$160,196.03.
In property taxes, the budgeted amount went from $275,000 this year to $367,500 for 2015, a 33.64 percent increase. The lighting district tax went up from $37,000 that was budgeted for this year to $100,038 for 2015, an increase of 170.37 percent.
In the Tift County Sheriff's Office, salaries increased across the board by 29.29 percent, from the budgeted $1,680,685.89 for 2014 to $2,172,962.34 budgeted for 2015. Health insurance costs increased for that department 23.92 percent, from $350,952 this year to a budgeted $434,898.52 for 2015. Retirement also was increased by 43.91 percent, while worker's compensation rose 21.70 percent. The department's 2015 overall budget is set at $3,555,622.68.
Health insurance for Tift County Jail employees also saw an increase, from $259,188 this year to $299,313.70 for 2015, up 15.48 percent. The budget for the year 2015 for the jail is set at $3,371,462.48.
Increases in some areas were offset by decreases in others. The line item for streets and public improvement went down from $30,000 this year, to $10,000 for 2015, a 66.67 percent decrease. The cost of lease vehicles for the sheriff's department decreased by 39.67 percent, from $57,528.32 this year down to $34,707.49 for 2015. At the jail, the cost of inmate meals was reduced 16.67 percent, down from the $270,000 budget this year to $225,000 for 2015, the cost of inmate supplies was reduced 25 percent, as well as the cost of general supplies, which went down 40 percent.
"As county commissioners, we are an elected body to establish the budget each year. I am pleased to say, our 2015 budget, with the help of staff and department heads, continues to be a solid budget and again we don't have to pass an increase on to our constituents," said District 2 Commissioner Melissa Hughes.
Commissioner Donnie Hester, District 1, echoed her sentiments, saying the county is "blessed."
"I'm pleased," he said. "We want to keep some money in the bank and some for a rainy day. We did a tremendous job, with our staff. Since I've been on the board, about 16 years, it's been 10 years since we had an increase in the millage rate."
"I'm just glad that we continue to strive for efficiency in county government, and appreciate all constitutional officials, department heads and all employee for the role they play in this effort. We have a history of keeping the millage rate down and providing good service to the taxpayer," added Mike Jones, commissioner for District 6.
In other business, commissioners unanimously voted to renew its Association of County Commissioners of Georgia property and liability insurance for 2014-15.
The original renewal would be $398,429, but was decreased because of a safety discount of $5,000 and a dividend credit of $51,181. This brought the total down to $342,248. The county will be reimbursed by the Tifton-Tift County Library in the amount of $2,036.28, and by the Tift County Development Authority for property coverage in the amount of $20,434.02. That brings the amount the county must pay from its general fund to a total of $319,777.70.
The 2013-14 premium after deductions was $307,288.37.
To contact editor Angye Morrison, call 382-4321.