During Thursday morning's commission meeting, the Jefferson County Commission unanimously passed a record $1 billion balanced operating and capital budget for fiscal year (FY) 2023-2024.

Jefferson County's FY runs from October 1 to September 30. The new budget totals $1,003,221,927.

The commission unanimously passed the budget resolution in the same motion as 63 other resolutions. It includes $249,153,379 for the county's General Fund and $15,529,029 for its Capital Fund. 

Jefferson County Commission president Jimmie Stephens told 1819 News after the meeting that he was especially proud of the county's investment in infrastructure. The budget specifically includes $45.47 million for the county's Road Fund, $33 million for its Capital Road Projects Fund and $24.94 million for the Captial ATIB Roads Projects Fund. It also includes money for landfills, sanitary operations and the Captial Sheriff Fund. 

He also said the county's commitment to infrastructure this year is larger than ever.

"We've been able to reallocate resources in order to improve the quality of life, and you can see that through infrastructure," Stephens explained. "... You can see that the majority of our funds are geared toward capital improvements, improving the quality of life, making sure we have a safe thoroughfare, making sure the Sheriff has those tools necessary to keep our people safe."

Stephens attributed the county's ability to pass the record budget without producing a deficit to an increase in revenue, which he argued was due to its investment in economic development over the last decade. He said these programs create jobs, and the county earns revenue from those jobs they can reinvest. 

"It was a great budget," Stephens said in the meeting. "I want to thank our CFO, our county manager, our legal department and especially our commissioners for working together to get this budget done in time, balanced, and this is the largest we've ever had."

The commission's finance chairman, Joe Knight, thanked department heads for the work put into creating this year's budget. 

"It's making sausage, but we ground it out, and we're here today, and we got a budget, and I think you all commissioners for all of your input and getting that budget done for the year 2024," he said.

Commissioner Mike Bolin, who came to the commission this summer after winning a special election, thanked his fellow commissioners for welcoming him and spoke about his experience sitting on the commission during the budget process for the first time.

"I'm still new," said Bolin. "I've been here six weeks next Monday. I'm proud to be here. This is a much different job in my life than I've had before. It's a curve ball, and I still have not learned to hit curve balls completely."

Ultimately, Stephens said this year's budgeting process was unusually easy, as both conservative and liberal commission members worked together.

"It crossed party lines, and it crossed racial lines as we all worked together to get it done," Stephens said. "It was kind of unusual that it went as smoothly as it did, but it went pretty good."

The county hasn't always been able to be so optimistic about its finances. In November 2011, the county filed for bankruptcy after failing to settle $3.14 billion in sewer debt. At the time, it was the largest bankruptcy by any municipal government in the United States.

To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email will.blakely@1819news.com or find him on Twitter and Facebook.

Don't miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.