Glynn County government’s fiscal year 2020-2021 budget is anticipated to be short by nearly $2 million, partly as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.
In total, the county budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, is estimated to be $132.3 million, about $400,000 lower than the current year’s budget.
No tax increase is planned.
A $1.08 million increase in expenses combined with an $875,000 decrease in revenue means the county is looking at a shortfall of roughly $1.95 million over the next year, according to interim Glynn County Chief Financial Officer Tamara Munson.
The local option sales tax, bed tax, alcohol tax, occupation tax, recreation fees and court fees dropped sharply, amounting to a $3.1 million loss in annual revenue.
Munson said the COVID-19 outbreak likely played a large part in the revenue shrinkage.
At the same time, the county saw slight gains in property/vehicle taxes, employee health contributions and prisoner housing fees. It’s not enough to make up for the other losses, however, leading to the $875,000, or 1 percent, revenue shortage in the next fiscal year.
The county saw increases in expenses related to insurance, the Glynn County Detention Center, custodial and maintenance contracts, judicial offices, election and poll worker costs, mosquito control and tree services, among others.
The $1.2 million in cuts to personnel, training and departmental expenses could not make up for other expenses.
Munson recommended using the county’s general fund reserves to cover the $1.95 million deficit.
Tapping the reserves is the only way to avoid cutting public services, according to a draft of the budget.
The county has not used the general fund reserves to balance the budget since the Great Recession of 2008, pulling from the pool of money for three or four years in a row, she said.
The $15.3 million reserve is separate from the county’s rainy-day fund, which is currently at $30 million.
The county will also have to pull from reserves in the fire department, solid waste and building inspection funds, among others.
Two public hearings on the budget are scheduled for June.
Commissioners must approve the budget by June 30.
The commission also heard pitches for two new amenities in the Golden Isles, one benefiting the islands and the other the mainland.
Robert McDonald gave a presentation on his plan to open a BMX track in the county.
He could acquire the money to develop the park but needs land. To that end, he asked the county to partner with him to open a track at either Blythe Island Regional Park or the North Glynn Recreation Complex.
It’s a family sport and can involve school programs, he said, adding it also can generate revenue from competitions.
The commission was optimistic about the project and asked McDonald to work with the county public works and recreation and parks departments to scope out a spot at North Glynn.
“We want to hear back from them, if the area you’re looking out there would be a good fit,” said commission chairman Mike Browning.
They also asked that he come up with a solid cost estimate before his next meeting with the commission.
Commissioner Allen Booker requested a study on the economic impact the track could have.
Stephen Williams with Anchor Shipping Group updated commissioners on his plan for a ferry between St. Simons and Jekyll islands and a shuttle system connecting various parts of both islands to the ferry landings.
Both trolleys and ferries would be managed by an LLC — not yet created — called Golden Isles Transit Company.
Ferries would offer regular trips between the St. Simons Island Pier and the wharf on Jekyll Island for $15 to $17 per person. The venture would start with a small ferry with a passenger capacity of around 40. The service would expand capacity if demand called for it.
Trolleys would run on a $7-a-day fee and connect to different commercial areas, hotels and beaches.
What Williams had in mind for docking at the St. Simons Island Pier did not sit well with a few commissioners, however.
A 600-square-foot floating spud barge would connect to the south-facing end of the pier via a gated gangway. Spuds are essentially mobile pilings which can be used to lift the barge a few feet above the surf to provide a stable docking area for the ferry, he said.
The spuds can be retracted by solar-powered, 12-volt winches, allowing the barge to move if necessary.
Browning and Commissioner David O’Quinn weren’t too keen on the idea.
O’Quinn was worried the structure and ferries would detract from the scenic view and Browning felt it would negatively impact the “pier experience.”
“If I was to comment on where the positioning should be, I think it should be on the far east end of the pier,” said O’Quinn.
The impact on parking in the Pier Village area was also a concern, but Williams agreed to look at requiring ferry customers to use off-site parking at McKinnon St. Simons Island Airport or some other site.
“Our ability to (use) the St. Simons fishing pier is critical to this venture,” Williams said.
Members of the commission also wanted him to look into alternate docking areas and determine how many ferry customers might use the parking in the village if they could.
Commissioners also heard an update on a Frederica Road straightening project as it runs past Christ Church Frederica.