“I am confident that we are presenting a budget that is lean, responsible and responsive to our priority concerns,” he said.
Some of the priorities illustrated in the proposed budget include improved public safety and maintaining fiscal stability. Ellis recommended a budgetary reserve of $30 million and funding for 25 additional police officers.
Ellis explained declining real estate values, municipal annexations and the incorporation of Brookhaven has left the county with a loss in revenue. A nearly 50 percent drop in real estate values in unincorporated areas of the county is coupled with an estimated $25 million revenue loss from Brookhaven’s incorporation.
To make up for the drop in revenue, Ellis has proposed increasing the property tax rate by 1.69 mills. He also recommended increasing the hotel/motel tax to 8 percent, selling county facilities listed as surplus property and implementing a fee to be charged when hazardous waste needs to be cleaned up following road accidents.
Ellis added Brookhaven is likely to require services from the county in its transition period — especially for police protection — and has anticipated the new city reimbursing the county about $2.5 million for those temporary services.
As another avenue to address lower revenues, he proposed refinancing debt, deferring some equipment purchases and outsourcing certain services, such as emergency medical transportation.
County spokesman Burke Brennan said county commissioners will review Ellis’ recommendations and must vote on the budget before the end of February. He said they will likely take up the vote Feb. 26.