Friday, October 05, 2012
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On 4th try, county's 2013 budget ends too spare

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[October 05, 2012]  A special meeting of the Logan County Board's finance committee was called on Sept. 25 to continue two important discussions. Both topics concern aspects of the upcoming 2013 fiscal year budget: attempting to swing the budget back to a positive balance, and the possibility of employee raises.

The first topic was about the budget itself and the various changes that are still being made to it. The figures that committee chairman Chuck Ruben presented on Tuesday were the fourth draft of the potential 2013 budget.

Since the last finance meeting, the budget has been changed due to upcoming expenditures the county will have to face. As a result, the draft presented would leave the county with a deficit of $104,870.

The large expenditure added to the budget was the initial cost required to sell bonds for the major criminal cases line item. The $1 million that is predicted to be needed will be split into four separate contingencies: $350,000, $100,000, $150,000 and $400,000. Ruben explained that this will reflect the fact that none of the funds will be specifically dedicated to any one specific item within the court cases.

An example of one area of the budget that is feeling the financial crunch is the Logan County Department of Public Health, specifically, the testing and treatment of tuberculosis. As of the current budget draft, the health department is sitting at $43,000, but tuberculosis is very expensive to treat and test for.

In order to attempt to swing such a deficit in the opposite direction, Ruben said he looked at both the expenditures and the revenues for next year.

"Revenues are hard to predict, and I'm always leery of raising them," said Ruben.

However, upon examination of the actual revenue in the past years, Ruben noted that it was considerably higher in some areas than was predicted. Because of this trend, he recommended that the county increase the projected revenue figures in the hopes that the actual revenue still comes out higher.

For example, in 2010, the replacement tax collected was $50,000 higher than predicted. The same was seen with the 0.25 percent sales tax.

Ruben commented that because the finance committee has already increased the projected revenue of the public safety tax, he does not think adjusting it further will be necessary, and it would be too risky to try and then over-predict the revenue.

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The increased predicted revenue of these areas from 2010, combined with other actual revenue figures, including the circuit clerk's office and photo-processing fees, brought the total to $310,000. Ruben believes that just over half of that, or $160,000, can safely be put into the budget as predicted revenue.

"I don't think we'll be over-budgeting the revenues, and I would just assume to under-budget if possible," said Ruben.

If the county adds that money to the revenue and then the deficit is taken away, that would leave the county with a small remainder of around $55,000. "That's not a lot," he said.

As to what the remainder could possibly be used for, the topic of potential employee raises was brought forward once again. In order to determine just how much it would cost to give raises to all of the nonunion, not elected or appointed employees, Ruben calculated the total amount that they are receiving now, and that is just under $1.2 million. "One percent amounts to $12,000," he said.

With the remainder left over, the county could afford to give a 2 percent raise to those employees, which would total around $24,000. However, that would not be even close to what is considered a good fund balance, which would be around a third of the total budget.

Committee members present were Chuck Ruben, chairman; Dave Hepler; Bob Farmer; Jan Schumacher; and Rick Aylesworth. Guests included Vicki Dugan, county treasurer; Mary Kelley, circuit clerk; and Sally Gosda.


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