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Macon County Manager Derek Roland unveils landmark FY 2024-25 budget proposal

In a presentation to the Board of Commissioners on Tuesday night, County Manager Derek Roland introduced the FY 2024-25 budget, marking it as the highlight of his tenure. Roland credited a decade of prudent financial stewardship for the county’s robust fiscal health, underlining that such stability has been achieved through strategic decisions, overcoming economic fluctuations, natural disasters, and a global pandemic.

“Out of the 11 budgets I have had the privilege of presenting, this budget is the one of which I am most proud,” Roland said. “The strong financial position anchoring this budget did not happen overnight nor did it happen by accident. It is the product of a decade of fiscally responsible leadership on the Macon County Board of Commissioners and the hard work and dedication of Macon County employees.”

Roland’s budget proposal totals $63,704,651 with revenues and expenditures balanced and no change to the county’s ad-valorem tax rate.

“The most significant year of capital expenditures in the history of Macon County can be accomplished with no increase to the ad-valorem tax rate, without maxing out the county’s debt capacity (currently at $22.4M outstanding principal and interest) and our fund balance will not fall below $25M,” said Roland

The budget presentation highlighted Macon County’s credit rating and a substantial $48.7 million fund balance, which generated $3.1 million in interest for FY 2024. Under conservative financial assumptions, the county is poised to support $70.1 million out of $133.65 million in education-related capital projects for the coming fiscal year, leveraging its Capital Reserve Fund without increasing the ad-valorem tax rate. The remaining funds will be sourced from a $62 million Needs Based Capital Grant received in 2024, alongside Repair and Renovation funds and reserves.

Reflecting on the fiscal journey, Roland recalled the FY 2015 revaluation that followed the 2008 recession, leading to a 19% drop in the ad-valorem property tax base and resulting in an FY 2016 tax rate of .349 per $100 of assessed value. At that time, the fund balance was approximately $16 million with $44 million in outstanding debt, starkly contrasting today’s fiscal health. The County has seen a transformation with the fund balance growing by 50% and debt halving over the last decade.

According to Roland, a cornerstone of the budget is its commitment to capital improvements and employee welfare. The FY 2025 budget earmarks $1.9 million for annual capital expenditures, a 27% increase from pre-pandemic averages. This includes critical upgrades to emergency services fleets, educational infrastructure, and planning for the Dorothy and John R. Crawford Senior Center.

“Real estate development and property values remaining at all-time highs will again lead to FY 25’ ad-valorem tax base growth albeit not at levels experienced over the past few years,” said Roland. “This additional revenue combined with revenue made available following a reduction in annual capital expenditures will be directed to those areas of operations the organization needs it most, allowing us to overcome the challenges of today as we literally “build” the future of tomorrow. The distribution of expenditures in the operating budget will result in a second year of increased operational funding to the Macon County School System, (13% in 2 years) a second year of increased funding to Southwestern Community College, (76% in 2 years) a 7% increase to the Fontana Regional Library System, add two positions in Environmental Health, provide a 2% Cost of Living Adjust for all Macon County Employees and a 1-step increase in the pay-plan for all full time employees.”

The FY 2025 budget reflects conservative revenue assumptions, anticipating a “leveling out” of the dramatic economic growth experienced during the pandemic. While overall revenues have decreased slightly due to a reduction in intergovernmental funding and investment interest, the county’s operational and capital needs remain met.

“The anticipated decline in interest on investments comes following a reduction in principal to fund proposed capital improvements,” Roland explained. “This budget sustains a ‘new and enhanced’ level of spending with respect to annual capital improvements, ensuring critical upgrades and maintenance continue.”

Roland concluded by emphasizing the critical role of Macon County employees in achieving and maintaining fiscal health. “Year after year, these men and women have implemented annual budgets effectively and with a degree of efficiency that is unprecedented for a small rural county. As we move forward, we must never forget that these men and women are the organization’s most valuable asset and should forever remain its top priority.”

During Tuesday night’s meeting, after Roland completed his budget presentation, Commissioner Josh Young how it could be possible for the county to be able to complete historic investments in infrastructure, while spending less money than ever before. Roland explained that it is able to be accomplished due to a decade of leadership from past and current commissioners being fiscally responsible with county tax dollars.

“The FY 25’ Budget has been a decade in the making,” said Roland. “It is representative of years of conservative budgeting and tough decisions, guided by fiscal responsibility. The cumulative effect of these decisions, and all the work performed to carry them out brings to the point we are at today. This organization is as financially solid as it has ever been and positioned perfectly to move forward with capital improvements that will impact Macon County for generations to come.”

Roland’s budget presentation is the first in a series of steps during the annual budget planning process. Budget work sessions and joint meetings are scheduled with partner organizations such as the Macon County Board of Education in the coming weeks leading up to a vote on the final budget. The new budget year is slated to start on July 1.

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