The decisions, along with a move toward zero-based budgeting, came during the board’s two-day planning retreat at Berry College’s WinShape Center this week.
Rome, Cartersville and Bartow County are among the jurisdictions that recently approved Sunday sales, but Floyd County missed the window to put the question on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.
Commissioner Garry Fricks noted that no county elections are scheduled for 2013 and said a special election would be too costly. Board members agreed to defer the issue for at least another year.
There were various opinions about the need for business licenses, and Commissioner John Mayes asked staffers to draft a proposal explaining how a system would work.
Annual registration would let the county keep track of businesses — for zoning and public safety purposes — and allow cross-checking with state records to be sure sales tax that is collected in the county goes into county coffers.
Commissioner Rhonda Wallace backed Mayes, saying officials should know where potentially hazardous operations are located and “if there’s an opportunity for increased revenue through sales tax, I think we should do it.”
Fricks and Commission Chairman Irwin Bagwell said a license requirement could hurt people who have been working out of their homes for years.
“I think it’s an additional tax on our businesses and this is not the right time,” Bagwell said.
Commissioner Larry Maxey said he’s “leaning against it,” but he wants to see an analysis of the pros and cons.
Board members also recognized the county will start losing the sales tax on energy used in manufacturing, beginning in January, but took no action.
The Georgia General Assembly eliminated both the state’s 4-percent tax and the local tax, but gave counties the option of replacing their share with a 2-percent excise tax.
The board’s discussions revolved around the county’s tight budget — and a five-year projection showing they’ll have to keep tapping the savings account if wholesale changes aren’t made.
Finance Director Gary Burkhalter called it “a structural imbalance” that will eventually affect the county’s credit rating. “We’re spending more than we take in. We want to get to the point where we can sustain our operations; stop these one-time draw-downs and chipping away at our fund balance.”
County Manager Blaine Williams said the county needs about $1 million more a year to continue the current austerity measures, and $4 million to $5 million to start paving roads and replacing old vehicles and heavy equipment again.
Williams proposed a budgeting strategy for each department that would let the board choose from different levels of service. Charts would show the results from increasing or decreasing each line item.
Commissioners approved of the charts but also said they want a traditional zero-based budget review, starting this year with animal control, public works and the police department. Plans are for the board to spend October going over each line item in search of savings.
The board also will meet with Constitutional officers and department heads before finalizing the budget and holding public hearings. The schedule calls for the 2013 spending plan to be adopted in late January.