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Burcham details financial picture for New Year

Right now as county treasurer Stephen Burcham sees it the county’s financial picture going into 2015 looks like the color of money with just over $4 million in the bank.

But at least one county commissioner says that the current drop in gasoline prices could be the proverbial double-edged sword causing a possible decline in sales tax for 2015.

“Cash at $4,097,750.87 puts us in a good position to meet our obligations that come due,” Burcham told the county commission at its Thursday meeting.

Cash is up over $1 million from this time last year, which includes money for all county departments, not just general fund.

In 2014 sales tax in the 1 percent and half-percent totaled $8,726,441 with $5,817,627 going to the administrative portion of the general fund and $2,908,813 to the emergency fund that covers budgets for emergency services.

Casino revenue that comes in four times a year totaled $744,208.75 for the four state gambling houses or more than $40,000 over 2013.

Despite these increases in revenue, however, as of Thursday, the administrative portion of general fund is in the red $129, 446.34, either from paying bills, payroll or reserved for other uses.

“That is why we need a sizeable carryover so the county has sufficient cash to operate in the black,” Chris Kline, chief deputy auditor, said.

At this point in time, any new bills presented to the county could not be paid until sales tax comes in later in the month. Then financial obligations would be prioritized with payroll coming first at $200,000 every two weeks. After payroll is the monthly charge for health insurance at $85,000, retirement at $65,000 a month and Medicare at $2,500 a pay period.

Of the $8.7 million in property tax collected $392,623 was made by direct bank transfer, $97,067 by credit card and $1,448,294 paid at a local bank, according to Burcham. The remainder was made in person at the courthouse or by mail.

The 32 certificates of deposit in which the county invests some of its funds brought in $104,363.76 with $77,707.40 going to the general fund and the remainder to special funds. Interest rates range from .35 to 1.15 percent per year with terms ranging from seven to 27 months. Face value range from $1.8 million to half-million.

Interest from the three-year-old Neighborhood Investment Program of the treasurer’s office brought in $186,531.36 with $136,145 of that going to the general fund. Interest rates there range from .9 to 2.25 percent.

“The Neighborhood Investment Program has become a large portion of our investments,” Burcham said.

Despite the picture Burcham painted, commissioner Bill Pratt said with the present decline in the cost of gasoline, a potential drop in prices in other goods overall could mean less coming in from sales tax.

“A 1 percent drop in sales tax would mean a drop of about $82,000,” he said. “Because when oil drops 50 percent everything associated with any kind of delivery ultimately goes down and those goods should come down, if this period last long enough, which is great for consumer and residents of county. But if the goods purchased come down, that decreases the sales tax.”

Lower prices could mean more spending locally.

“But they also may decide to pay down bills or put a roof on their house,” Pratt said.

“They might go take a vacation to Florida. It is something to keep our eyes on. We have not been through a period like this for a long time. I think it is inevitable, this deflation, if the oil stays down.”

Burcham said there could be an argument for imminent deflation, but that also consumers could start spending on big-ticket items that they had put off for some time, which would increase sales tax revenue.

“Whether (deflation) will happen for a period or a year, we need to be aware of it,” Pratt said. “There might be some repercussions for county finances because of this.”