If anyone is thinking that planning for a six-month budget rather than a full year’s budget would somehow be easier on Bibb County officials, that would be a mistake.

Though the Bibb County government ceases to exist when the new Macon-Bibb County consolidated government takes over Jan. 1, commissioners are facing a lot of unexpected costs leading up to the merger, said Commissioner Lonzy Edwards, who serves as chairman of the county’s Finance Committee.

“I think (the process) is going to be very different,” Edwards said. “In my judgment, it’s going to be much more difficult. Ordinarily, it’s a very difficult process, but there’s lots of uncertainty over the whole process (because of consolidation). We’re going to make sure we’re going to do the best we can and live within our means.”

Commissioners and county officials will hold a retreat Friday morning at Claystone Pavilion to get their first look at preliminary figures from County Finance Director Debra Martin. The budget hearings will begin in earnest May 20 as each department presents its budget proposal to the commissioners, beginning with the sheriff’s office. Commissioners will hold five days of hearings between then and May 29, leading to a June 11 work session.

Commissioners will hold a public hearing on the budget June 20 at 9 a.m. at the board room in the Bibb County Courthouse, with a vote on the budget a week later.

Martin said she’s presently using revenue numbers from last year’s tax digest, but they should be relatively close to this year’s digest.

“I don’t see it changing that much,” she said. “Next month, we’ll have some better numbers.”

Martin said she’s planning for the next six months, then will work with Macon’s Finance Department and the Carl Vinson Institute of Government from the University of Georgia to plan the budgets for the consolidated government.

Some of the items in the consolidated budget — for example, new uniforms for the new sheriff’s office — will be purchased with money set aside for uniforms in the current sheriff’s and Police Department’s budgets.

The new government ultimately should save some money as departments between the two governments are consolidated, Martin said.

Bibb County Chief Administrative Officer Steve Layson said it’s going to be difficult for either the city or the county to anticipate everything necessary for the new government.

“It’s an interesting question (planning for consolidation), because there are things we probably haven’t thought of,” he said.

Over the past few years, commissioners have had to dip into the county’s reserves to make the budget work. Edwards said he hopes that won’t be the case this year, but a lot of factors figure into that determination.

“We’re going to be as conservative as we can and live within our means,” he said, adding that items such as unexpected disasters or maintaining the county’s bond rating also are considered. “But it wouldn’t surprise me if we had to dip into our reserves. We don’t know what the new government is going to have to face. I’ll be a hard sell (to dip into reserves), but I’ll be a harder sell on raising taxes. … We need to run a tight ship, whenever possible.”