Pierce budgets are near $48 million to cover the expense of all services

How big is local government?

Pierce Countians head out the door every day, and just like most Americans, they work hard to earn a paycheck, hoping to make each dollar stretch as far as possible. Bills start to pile up  — including property tax notices  — and hard working locals wonder how much it costs to run Pierce County.  

The answer? $47.8 million.

That’s $2,479 per man, woman and child every year.

Of the $47.8 million it takes to run local government and fund education, $13.3 million, or $691 per person, come from property taxes levied by the county, cities and school board. The rest is comprised of franchise and user fees, sales tax dollars, other taxes, state and federal funding, and grants.

$47.8 million seems small in comparison to a recently passed $4 trillion federal budget, but that amount is often more important than the trillions of dollars managed by Uncle Sam, much of which never directly impacts quality of life in Pierce County.

That $47.8 million has a direct impact on the quality of life locals enjoy, the integrity of the schools Pierce County children attend, and the safety and security of residents’ homes and property.

An examination of what it costs to operate local governments shows $32.8 million (68.53 percent) goes toward education in Pierce County  — although only $7.3 million of that comes from local taxpayers.  Nearly 75 percent of the school district’s general operating budget is funded by the state. (Another $4.6 million in expenditures are budgeted through ‘special revenue funds’ comprised of state and federal dollars, but that amount is not included in the aforementioned total cost of government.)

Pierce County government is second to the school district at 19.49 percent of the total cost of local government with a budget of $9.3 million.

The City of Blackshear has a total budget of $4.5 million, including $2.6 million in the general fund and $1.6 million in the water and sewer budget. The remainder of the city’s budget is primarily allocated to capital improvement projects.

The cities of Patterson and Offerman round out the total. Patterson’s general budget is $545,000, and their water and sewer budget is $275,850. Offerman’s current budget is $403,322. They have no water or sewer department to budget for.

How does Pierce compare to Ware, Brantley?

How does Pierce compare to surrounding counties?

• The cost of government in Pierce County is $169 more per person than it is for our neighbors in Brantley County where it costs $2,310 per person to keep the county running.

• The cost of running local government in Pierce is $661 less per person than in Ware County where it costs $3,140 per person to operate city and county governments and fund the school system.

Editor’s Note: Calculations in these articles are based on U.S. Census data for Pierce, Ware and Brantley Counties, most recently updated in July 2017. According to the U.S. Census, 19,307 people live in Pierce County, 18,731 live in Brantley County and 35,871 live in Ware County.

20 Years Ago:

It costs more per person to run government in Pierce County now than it did 20 years ago – But not as much as one might think.

• Twenty years ago it cost $22.3 million to operate local governments and fund education. Accounting for inflation, that’s approximately $33.8 million  — $14 million less than what it costs to keep Pierce County running in 2019.

• That $22.3 million in 1999 broke down to $1,500 per person, or $2,275 by today’s currency standard. Locals pay $204 more per person per year than in 1999.