Recently, Chattooga County Sole Commissioner Jason Winters told the local newspaper that he may have to look at cutting jobs in order to get the county’s finances in shape. The county’s 2017 financial audit backs up the Commissioner’s fears about the future.
In March of 2018, the Rome News Tribune ran an article entitled: “Commissioner proclaims Chattooga County is in better shape than ten years ago”, but reviews of the county’s finances show a deteriorating condition that dates back several years. The county’s audits are not available online, but WZQZ News has obtained a copy of the audits from the past several years which show that the county continues to spend more than the revenue it takes in; this despite a huge property tax increase at the beginning of the commissioner’s current term.
In the 2017 Chattooga County audit, the county had a negative General Fund balance of -$463,127. That would appear slightly better than the 2016 General Fund balance of -$552,936, except for the fact that the county took in more revenue in 2017 due to the tax increase. In all, the county brought in $10.2 million in revenue in 2017, with 86% of those funds being from property taxes. In all, the reported expenses for 2017 were $9.3 million. That should have netted the county an approximate $800,000 profit. However nearly all of the $800,00 was transferred to the capital project funds along with other funds, which would indicate that the county was already short on funds in those accounts.
The bulk of the county’s income comes in December with the collection of property taxes (86% of the county’s revenue). It’s the same for the Board of Education and other governments. However, unlike the Chattooga Board of Education, which has around $5 million in reserves, the county has no reserve funds. If the county’s finances were improving, the county could have taken the $800,000 over expenses and put that in savings to help weather the lean months. Instead, the county has to rely on Tax Anticipation Notes, or TAN notes to make payroll throughout the year.
The 2018 audit report for the county government will not be ready until mid-summer. You can view the most recent audit by clicking on the link below. (PDF reader required to view.)
From AM 1180