Archived Story

‘Magic figure’ for budget expected next week

Published 10:18am Friday, October 25, 2013

By this time next week the Lawrence County Commissioners should know how much money they have to work with for next year’s budget.

“The budget commission is meeting on Thursday and we should have numbers for the commission to put together for 2014,” Lawrence County Auditor Jason Stephens told the commissioners at their regular Thursday meeting. “We are in that process.”

On Tuesday the budget commission, which must certify the amount of revenue the commissioners can appropriate, met without deciding that figure. The commission is made up of the county auditor, county treasurer and county prosecutor.

The question in that meeting was the same as the one Commissioner Les Boggs brought up to Stephens on Thursday. What percentage of that anticipated revenue should be given to the commissioners to spend when they make up their budget?

Last year the budget commission originally certified $9,700,000. But throughout the year amended that certification with the end figure at $9,965,373. Right now the auditor’s office estimates total revenue into the general fund for 2014 to be at $10,620,000 or $22,359 less than what was estimated to come in this year.

“This is the eighth time we have added to the budget,” said Boggs, who labeled himself as fiscal conservative. “From a commission standpoint, it is easier if we have a close knowledge (of the revenue), conservative, but not too conservative. I don’t know what that magic figure would be. I’m asking the budget commission ‘Don’t underestimate.’ (The commissioners should tell officeholders), ‘This is your budget. Don’t come back.’ As opposed to adding eight times a year.”

The two largest streams of revenue to the county come from the real estate taxes and sales tax. Since real estate revenue doesn’t come in until three or four months into the New Year, a carryover from the past year’s budget is used to pay payroll and bills for January, February and March. Sales tax comes in monthly and can fluctuate.

“Sales tax is up 1 or 2 percent but we have two more months,” Stephens said. “Last month is $45,000 less than last year.”

Stephens, who served on the county commission for 10 years before becoming county auditor, favors having a $2 million carryover to cover expenses for the first three or four months of each year.

“I’ve always cared about the carryover,” Boggs said. “If we have a total budget, we have a good idea of what the carryover would be. I’m sitting here at November and I don’t know what our carryover will be.”

The budget commission will meet at 9 a.m. on Thursday prior to the county commission’s 9:30 a.m. meeting.

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