Bibb commissioners are in Athens for their strategic planning retreat. They spent Tuesday afternoon developing the budget for the next year and looking at ways they can cut back on spending after an audit showed a $12 million deficit in last year’s budget.

The main issue everyone wanted to address was making sure a deficit does not happen again.

“If you remember when we came here, we said, 'Wow, we're at $8 million in the hole.' What we didn’t know is that we’d have a tremendous year in health care,” says Assistant County Manager Julie Moore at the opening of the meeting.

In fiscal year 2016, the county took $8 million out of their general fund, and in fiscal year 2017, they took an additional $12 million out of the fund.

Now, Moore says they are heading towards taking $4 million out of the general fund for fiscal year 2018. She says a large part of the problem is that the county thought they would bring in more than they did.

“Hoping that sales tax, hoping that some of the insurance premium tax, hoping that some of the unknowns of a franchise fee, which we were seeing an increase, would make up some of that difference and it certainly didn’t make up that difference,” says Moore.

The county is not bringing in as much revenue as they hoped, so Moore says they have to look at ways to cut back spending. One of those areas is retirement funds.

“We want to make sure that employees have something 20 to 30 years from now. Right now, we’re operating at a rate where I don’t think anybody feels comfortable guaranteeing that,” says the county’s financial advisor, Matthew Arrington.

He says the deficit is causing the county to deplete pension funds, so he says they need to look at making changes.

“What you can do, what all governments are moving to do, is they’re requesting that employees contribute to their pension plans,” says Arrington.

Another cause of the deficit is health care.

“Y'all had a higher amount of high dollar claims,” says BB&T consultant Jimmy Henson.

Henson says one way the county can fix that is having mail delivery service for medicines.

Mayor Robert Reichert says the main issue is lack of revenue, so he says they have to look at ways to increase what they bring in. He says their two main options are implementing a new sales tax or increasing the millage rate.