February 5, 2009

Commission Restores Cuts in Approved 2009 County Budget

After a year of tightening its belt helped Scotland County nearly double its financial balance for the fiscal year 2008, the county commission agreed to restore several budget cuts when the 2009 budget was approved January 22nd.

With balances increasing from just under $69,000 in 2007 to more than $115,000 at the end of 2008, the commission approved a 2009 budget that will restore $15,000 in funding to the Scotland County Extension service while also returning $5,000 in funding to the Prosecuting Attorney and County recorders offices to fund part-time help.

“This has been made possible in part by the office holders who have done a good job when submitting their budgets the past two years,” said County Clerk Betty Lodewegen. “Knowing the financial situation of the county, they have not asked for anything unreasonable.”

But even with conservative revenue estimates due to the recession, the county was able to restore the $20,000 in budget cuts made last year while also approving a 5% pay raise for county employees (non-office holders). That marks the first pay increase since 2006 for county workers.

Overall the 09 budget is anticipating roughly $2.6 million in revenue. Local property taxes will generate $661,000 in revenue on the estimated $55,540,000 assessed valuation for the county. Another $530,000 is expected to come in from the county sales tax with nearly $825,000 in revenue from intergovernmental transfers such as state reimbursements for county officers.

The budget alots $812,000 to the general revenue fund, $968,000 to the special road and bridge fund and another $332,000 to the road and bridge capital improvement fund.

The general fund is the county’s main operating account. The 2009 budget is projecting roughly $25,000 deficit spending dropping the fund’s balance to $91,879.02. The $720,000 general fund will operate on $255,000 in property tax revenue, $212,000 in sales tax and $113,000 in intergovernmental revenue.

The bulk of the expenditures are salary related for the county officeholders and assistants. Office budgets range from the low end of $7,820 for the county coroner and $15,080 for the public administrator to $56,496.71 for the county collector’s office and $63,546.45 for the county clerk’s office.

Other significant parts of the general revenue budget are $73,635 for building and grounds upkeep and roughly $70,000 in insurance and fringe benefits.

Public safety is a key component of the general fund as well with $167,297.05 budgeted for the sheriff’s department. That represents a roughly $10,000 increase from 2008, but still fell $14,000 shy of the department’s funding requests.

The department had sought $21,000 in funding for a second full-time deputy. The county instead added additional funding for part-time officers and overtime.

The county’s law enforcement sales tax generates approximately $106,000 in revenue.

The county also increased the budget for the emergency fund, which had shrank to just $225 in 2006. The county budgeted $20,000 for reserves, which would protect against unplanned expenses such as a heating system failure.

Despite estimated declining revenue from a number of sources, the county’s special road and bridge fund will see a slight increase overall due to a $140,000 infusion from FEMA for storm repairs from 2008.

Intergovernmental revenues, including federal fuel tax income and revenue from motor vehicle sales are being projected for a $35,000 decrease from 2007.

But the FEMA funds will help the county increase expenditures to $943,000 in 2009, up from $860,000 last year and $833,000 in 2007.

A large part of the funding increase will go toward road rock, with the county budgeting $281,000 for the purchase, up nearly $60,000 from a year ago.

The remainder of the budget goes to payroll ($368,000), supplies ($193,500), repairs ($60,000), and insurance ($23,000).

The Road and Bridge Capital Improvements fund will have a budget of $293,000 for 2009. With estimated revenues of just $216,000, the fund will spend down its $115,000 balance to closer to $40,000 by the end of the year.

The fund is totally supported by the road and bridge sales tax.

The budget calls for $60,000 in expenditures on equipment, $30,000 for road tubes, $40,000 for additional rock purchases and $161,500 for bridge construction.

“Last year’s budget was a tough one,” Lodewegen said. “But with all the budget cuts made over the past two years, this year’s balance ended up better than we expected. If the budget holds true for estimated revenues and budgeted expenditures then we will deficit spend this year. But hopefully we will receive more revenue and spend less than we budgeted.”

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