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County sets tax collection record

We set a record.

Lawrence County’s second-half tax collections, which ended July 21, amounted to $8.157 million, according to Lawrence County Treasurer Stephen Dale Burcham, and that’s good news for the county’s ailing budget.

“Between that and the first-half tax collections, we’ve collected more money than in any year since the county has been in existence,” Burcham said.

First half tax collections amounted to $12.172 million, putting the county over the $20 million mark.

And the news gets better: Burcham said interest income — income the county gets from investing its money — has increased 54 percent over previous years, thanks to changes in the county’s investment strategy. To date, interest income from county investments totaled $301,440.56. For the same time last year, the county’s interest income was $195,955.57.

“It’s not going to be enough to make anyone rich or make all of our problems go away, but it is more money,” Burcham said.

Maybe it won’t make the county rich, but Lawrence County Commissioners were glad to get some good news.

“I applaud the efforts you and your staff are making,” said George Patterson, Lawrence County Commission president. “With your efforts, it gives us a better outlook on our finances. And 54 percent more interest income, that’s unreal.”

Commissioners agreed to request that the Lawrence County Budget Commission meet and determine how much more money the county will have to spend and, in so doing, make ends meet.

Just last week, commissioners released figures showing a couple dozen county offices may run out of money in their salary accounts before the end of the year — some as early as September.

The county’s budget was set in place at the beginning of the year with very conservative figures based on projections from last year’s numbers. The budget is often amended later to reflect positive — or in some cases negative — financial changes.

Burcham said he met recently with Lawrence County Prosecutor J.B. Collier Jr., to discuss filing lawsuits against the most seriously delinquent property owners who have resisted previous requests to pay back taxes. Sixty names have been submitted to the prosecutor’s office for action.