Archived Story

County must keep focus on expenses

Published 10:01am Thursday, June 27, 2013

Although the recent announcement that sales tax collections are up 10 percent compared to last year is good news, no one should be fooled into thinking that the county is in great financial shape.

The county commissioners and the budget commission will reevaluate the revenue streams next month, the result of which may put a little bit more money in county coffers.

But the reality is that the county will not improve its fiscal health by focusing solely on its revenue. It simply grows too slowly and isn’t enough to address the fact that the county essentially plans to spend more than it brings in each year but always manages to squeak by somehow.

The 10 percent increase represented about $40,000, an absolute drop in the bucket of the county’s larger financial needs.

Relying on sales tax revenue in a fickle economy, casino gambling profit sharing and tenuous government funding is a recipe for disaster.

Revenue growth must be part of the county’s long-term strategy, but it will not happen overnight.

The commission must focus on cutting expenses, a move that will require the county to fundamentally change how it operates. It may require the elimination of services, staff reductions and other painful cuts.

It won’t be easy but Lawrence County’s future depends on it.

The minimal revenue growth is great but county leaders cannot lose sight of what it will take to get the county strong now so it can focus on the future.

 

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  • BillPratt

    Thanks Mike. I’ve had some conversation back and forth with the IT. We still disagree some but it’s not a big deal. I agree with you. They are a good staff. I’m fortunate to have them as a local paper.

    Bill

    (Report comment)

  • mikehaney

    The Tribune staff are not perfect, but they do a good job of keeping us citizens informed.
    Bill Pratt–really appreciate the input on the article. Educating the voters is a tough job, and you definitely helped in that category. Thanks

    (Report comment)

  • BillPratt

    Thanks Mick. Most of the time I just let these roll right off my back but this one needed some attention. I think you and I have a similar train of thought. Too bad you’re not back in Ironton.

    Bill

    (Report comment)

  • mickakers

    BillPratt; My compliments on an able apologia and also my compliments to the Tribune for keeping you distinguished gentlemen on your toes. I find it encouraging that a Public Servant takes the time to reply.

    (Report comment)

  • BillPratt

    I’m not sure which one of The Ironton Tribune’s editorial staff wrote this opinion but whoever it was has either not been paying attention or is very misinformed. I think it is a little bit of both. To say that the residents of the county may be fooled into thinking the County is in good financial shape is an insult to the Commission and to our constituents. The commission didn’t write the article about sales tax revenue increases.

    To insinuate that we would be focused only on revenue is misguided. The Tribune published plenty of articles about our 23% salary line item cut and how some officeholders made it work in their offices. We also have picked away at smaller expenses along the way. We did away with a little used TeleDoc service ($4300). The county’s rearrangement of workers comp over the last several years is saving hundreds of thousands of dollars. The county’s debt service will be reduced by $160,000+ in 2014 because the Jobs and Family Services building is now paid in full. The EMS is projected to make its budget this year with $150,000 less than in 2012.

    Yes, revenues are fickle, but they are important. As I have said before, the budget commission is conservative and rightfully so. To say that the county somehow squeezes by is inflammatory. This happens for a reason. It is not by chance. When there is uncertainty, such as a state budget year, the commission must be a little more conservative. Our sales tax numbers, our casino revenue, and our local government projections are much lower than we anticipate them actually being. This happens so the Commission doesn’t appropriate money that never materializes. It’s not because someone waves a magic wand in October and the money appears. It’s because the budget commission members played their role correctly.

    Last, I find it humorous that it is considered a fact that the county essentially plans to spend more than it takes in. This can occur but is not something that can happen on a regular basis. If the county spends more than it takes in for one year it is only because the carryover from the previous year was decreased. A carryover is important because that money is used to disperse payroll in January before sales tax revenues come in on the 20th of the month. This year and again next year there will be two payrolls before that date. That requires a larger balance at the end of the year. Our carryover going into 2014 will need to be $900,000+.

    As noted in the previous article, sales tax was certified at $7.4 million. Last year’s final amount was more like $8.3 million. We are now on pace to receive a bit more than $8.3 million in 2013 so with a wave of the wand. Poof! There’s the $900,000 carryover. Not by magic, but because those involved did the job they were supposed to do.

    We weren’t solely focused on revenue but I’m glad we were just a little.

    No hard feelings,

    Bill Pratt
    Lawrence County Commissioner

    (Report comment)

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