Despite assurances deficit spending would not be necessary after a millage rate increase, county officials recommended spending from the Glynn County Fire Department’s reserves Tuesday.
Glynn County’s finance committee recommended the Glynn County Commission approve deficit spending on a grant offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Accepting the $3 million grant would cover roughly two thirds of pay and equipment for 15 additional firefighters.
Glynn County would have to contribute around $800,000 over three years for the local match, which would require spending money from the Glynn County Fire Department’s fire fund balance. If the grant is approved, the county may be spending at a deficit from the fire fund balance for the next three years.
County Manager Alan Ours made sure to point out to finance committee members — all three of which are Glynn County Commissioners — that accepting the grant would necessitate deficit spending, and they had just raised the millage rate in August.
“As has been said, we just raised the millage rate on everyone in Glynn County, and increased taxes in an effort to bring in some fiscal responsibility, and one of the first things we’re talking about doing is spending almost $800,000 for firefighters that we don’t have over the next three years,” Mark Stambaugh, finance committee member, said Tuesday.
Monica Hardin, county grant writer, said the new firefighters may end up paying for themselves.
“You are spending, if not that amount, maybe even more in overtime on a yearly basis,” Hardin said.
Fire Chief R.K. Jordan was also confident that would be the case.
“I believe the county will see the impact of these employees at the end three years’ time, and growth will allow us to maintain them,” Jordan said Tuesday.
Each of the county’s funds has a fund balance, which are essentially reserves. Any money from county funds that hasn’t been spent goes into that fund’s balance at the end of the year. More than $10 million of these reserves have been spent over the last three years, and Glynn County Commissioners decided it would be a prudent to stop and rebuild some of the fund balances.
Completely ending the county’s deficit spending habit would take more than ending it in a single year, Stambaugh said.
At a county commission meeting last week, the commission recommitted to deficit spending items from last year, adding them to the current year’s budget. The county committed to those spending items, but hadn’t made the transactions yet. Stambaugh used Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax projects as an example.
“We’re still cleaning up SPLOST projects from five, six years ago because it takes time to clean them up and pay out (to contractors),” Stambaugh said.
If money from the reserves was committed to be spent last year, the county would still have to spend that money from the reserves, even though it has more revenue this year, Stambaugh said.
County officials said adding deficit spending from last year to this year’s budget was not deficit spending this year, because the spending was approved last year.
If the county completely stopped spending at a deficit, Stambaugh said, deficit spending from prior years would continue to be added to new budgets until the expenditures were complete, effectively snowballing until deficit spending hits a standstill and the county has time to catch up.
The grant will likely be considered at the Glynn County Commission’s next meeting, which is scheduled for 6 p.m. Oct 19 in the Old Glynn County Courthouse, 701 G St. in Brunswick.