By JAMES SWIFT
While officials are still piecing together general fund and special revenue numbers, Bartow County Administrator Peter Olson said the local government is expecting a mild increase in next year’s budget.
“We’re projecting fairly mild growth and we’re not seeing a lot of growth on the expense side, either,” he said. “We’re being conservative in terms of expected sales tax revenue and expected property tax — which, together, I think is about 75% of the budget.”
At this point, Olson said there are no plans to use reserve funds to shore up possible shortfalls in the proposed budget.
“I think we’re going to end the year in good shape,” he said. “We did get some CARES money and there’s some other stimulus funding that’s making its way to us gradually … for example, the GDOT transit funding.”
He also said the County anticipates filing for reimbursement under the federal Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act for expenditures such as personal protective equipment and overtime pay.
“A few of the departments will end the year over budget because of things like hazard pay and the extra expense related to the pandemic,” he said. “But it’s not going to be very much, and the revenue’s been healthy this year, ultimately — we experienced a little bit of a drop in the sales tax in the March/April/May period, but it climbed back up.”
The final tally isn’t complete, but Olson said he anticipates the County ending the 2020 fiscal year with numbers fairly similar to those from the 2019 fiscal year.
“We didn’t see any growths, but we didn’t lose any ground,” he said. “And property tax, the digest had a pretty good amount of growth.”
Olson said he expects to see that growth continue in the year ahead.
“Talking to our tax assessors’ office and the realtors in the community, there’s still healthy price growth in the real estate market,” he said. “There will be reappreciation upward of the existing housing and there’s a lot of new construction going in … industrial, commercial, housing, all that’s new growth that contributes to the digest.”
And when it comes to sales tax revenue, Olson said Bartow’s position as a regional shopping hub shouldn’t be discounted.
“I think it’ll grow a little bit next year,” he said. “We’re about to get another round of stimulus, a lot of the stimulus seems to go right out of people’s pockets and into lawnmowers and home renovations and new TVs.”
When it comes to capital projects, Olson said he expects 2021 to be a fairly quiet year for Bartow County.
One at the forefront, he said, is a new downtown Cartersville parking deck.
“That’ll replace the parking lot that’s behind the annex, the old First Baptist Church, to provide additional parking for the courthouse and the downtown,” he said. “That’s out to bid right now, the bids will be open in January and get under way here next year.”
While that deck is meant to handle traffic associated with a major Frank Moore Administration and Judicial Center expansion, Olson said groundwork on that larger-scale project remains years away.
The money for a new fire department administration headquarters building, Olson said, likely won’t be in line until 2022. Bids are already out, however, for the construction of a new sheriff’s office facility along Ladds Mountain Road.
“They need some additional office space for some of their operations,” Olson said.
Meanwhile, Olson said an engineering firm has yet to be selected for a major wastewater treatment plant in western Bartow County. However, he also said there’s a possibility construction on that proposed $28 million project off Hardin Bridge Road could begin by the end of 2021.
“Water’s got a real busy year,” he said. “There’s a lot of projects going and a lot of projects that need to get going. For example, they’ve got a bunch of…