County Looks to Finalize Consolidated Budget

July 3, 2013
Dwayne Page
County Mayor Mike Foster

County Mayor Mike Foster wants the budget committee to have a consolidated budget in hand by July 15.

The budget committee met Tuesday night, July 2 and two more meetings are scheduled for next week, Tuesday and Friday, July 9 & 12 at 6:00 pm. each night at the courthouse to continue work on the proposed spending plan for the 2013-14 fiscal year. During both meetings, members of the budget committee will convene with all other county commissioners to consider the budget.

Mayor Foster is concerned about the level of projected deficit spending next year in the county general, school budget, and highway (county road) department which, if realized would mean all departments combined would be allocating more than two million dollars of the cash reserves to balance their budgets.

In reality, the county has never had to dip into the fund balances in the past near as much as projected. For example, the school system was expected to use $1.2 million of its reserves to balance the 2012-13 budget but may actually break even. Foster said the county general fund is also in better financial condition than anticipated. "We recognize now that we are under budget for last year and that makes us feel a little bit better about this year. I think if everything goes well, we (county general fund) will break about even or in the worse case go into the fund balance by maybe $160,000 depending on June revenues," said Foster.

In order to keep projections of deficit spending under $2 million dollars for the 2013-14 fiscal year Foster would like to see more cuts to protect the county's bond rating. "On paper if we spend everything we budget, and we will not, the county budget (county general fund) would go into fund balance by about $708,000. Right now, the schools would go into fund balance by about $1,505,000 and highways (county road department) would be a little over $133,000 into fund balance. Because of the precedent that it sets, we would like for it (deficit spending) to be under $2 million. Last year it was (under $2 million) and we're trying to get to that same figure that we were last year. It's still going to be that we're going into the fund balance some but we want to make it lesser to protect our bond rating. That's an important thing. If we lose that bond rating it will cost us more if we get to the point where we do borrow money. We've worked real hard for several years to get our bond rating at an A1 rating and we don't want to jeopardize it," said Foster.

According to the county's municipal advisor Stephen L. Bates, the school system is projected to go into its reserves by $1,504,460 to balance the 2013-14 budget. By reducing budget projections for "allowance of contested taxes" the school system may be afforded another $23,000 in new revenue. Still, the school district could use up to $1,483,000 of its reserves next year to balance its budget, which is about $247,000 more than the deficit budgeted for 2012-13.

The budget committee is looking at the possibility of cutting the proposed two new SRO positions in the county general fund budget down to one new position. The budget committee is also asking the school system to cut another $147,000 from its proposed budget. The highway department may also be asked to make some cuts.

Foster said the budget picture should become much more clear after next week. "I think we've made lots of cuts and we're getting down now to where we have to finalize," said Foster. "By law, we have to have it (consolidated budget) completed by July 15. I feel like we're real close (to having it completed). We'll meet Tuesday night, July 9 to work on all the budgets except for schools. The school board will meet on July 11. After that we will consolidate the budgets on July 12," said County Mayor Foster.

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