Archived Story

Budget commission certifies 2014 revenue

Published 10:24am Friday, November 1, 2013

This is our final answer. That was the philosophy of the Lawrence County Budget Commission as it certified revenue for 2014 at its Thursday meeting. Now the county commissioners will begin working on next year’s budget.

Total amount certified for the three parts of the general fund is $13,376,610 of the $14,673,580 estimated to come into the county in 2014. That compares to the $13,631,983 certified for this year. That figure, however, was the result of numerous additional certifications over the $13,366,610 that was originally certified in 2012.

“We don’t expect to do another one,” Chief Deputy Auditor Chris Kline said.

At an earlier budget commission meeting County Treasurer Stephen Burcham voiced his support for having only one certification while County Auditor Jason Stephens contended that what is certified will be entirely appropriated and spent, eliminating the needed carryover that covers first of the year bills.

“It gives every officerholder a realistic view of where they are going to be with their budgets,” Burcham said on Thursday. “In past years amounts were certified and re-certified. (Officeholders) didn’t make appropriate adjustments. Now this is it. I would rather know in January than be making a guess and assuming more money would be coming down the road.”

Real estate tax in 2014 is expected to come in at $2,440,000 or approximately $55,000 more than last year. That money goes entirely into the AOO fund that provides the budgets for all officeholders except the sheriff’s office, which is funded from the half-percent sales tax, and the recorder, the treasurer, the auditor and engineer offices that are funded primarily from fees they charge.

Casino revenue is expected to be about $50,000 more than last year, coming in at $750,000. In 2013 the county got $703,962 from the four casinos with $600,000 of that certified. For 2014 $675,000 was certified.

Sales tax for AOO for next year is anticipated to come in at $30,000 less than 2013. Of that the commission certified $4,930,000, which is $70,000 less than what was certified for 2013.

County Prosecuting Attorney Brigham Anderson, the third member of the commission, said this way of certifying revenue allows the commissioners to know what they have to work with.

“We tried to give the best picture as we could,” he said. “There are a lot of variables at work as far as (real estate) taxes, sales tax and casino revenues. Those are variables month to month. We looked at the last four years and projected.”

The fund to be hit harder with the decrease in sales tax is the emergency services that gets all its revenue from the half-percent sales tax. For 2014 the half percent sales tax is estimated at $2,650,000 with $2,350,000 of that certified. That is $50,000 less than was certified for 2013, when sales tax is expected to be at $2,665,000.

“The good news is the general fund is roughly the same,” Stephens said. “The concern is the half-percent sales tax.”

There will be $158, 295 less than for emergency services to spend than this year. On top of that in August the commissioners voted to add $300,000 to the budget of Lawrence County EMS, although Commission President Bill Pratt voiced reservations about the motion of Commissioner Les Boggs.

“That is going to cause some issues, definitely,” Pratt said. “I don’t know how it will be resolved. We will have to study that carefully. I have asked EMS to give us a budget of $1 million. If they are able to work within that budget that needs to be where it stays at. Otherwise someone else would have to be cut $458,000 less. Even though the EMS is important, it is hard to justify taking from other entities that are there.”

The commission certified $300,000 less than it could have for the emergency services fund so there would be money to pay bills for January 2014.

In January of this year expenses for those agencies were at $322,000.

“We need more than that,” Stephens said. “If we had a major snow storm like the ice storm a few years back. (Certifying) for 2014 has to be critical not just for this year’s budget, but for the future as well.”

Pratt said overall he is pleased with the actions of the budget commission.

“I am happy about it,” he said. “We are pretty much flat. If we can keep our insurance flat, that is about all we can ask for. It is a good situation to work with. It could have been a lot worse.”

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