Treasurer says County budget still in line

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By Calen McKinney

Expenses are up and revenue is down, but the County is making its budget balance nonetheless.

County Treasurer Melissa Williams says reserve money is being used and two employees have been laid off. As a result, she said she believes the budget is in OK shape.

The County's budget was the focus of Monday night's meeting of Taylor Fiscal Court's Budgets, Audits and Personnel Committee. Williams presented magistrates with the current status of the general, road and jail funds.

Sixty percent of the fiscal year has been completed and the Committee discussed areas in which more than that has been spent, which means those areas are now over budget.

Two of the funds - the road and jail - have been overspent, with 67.76 and 69.07 percent having already been used, respectively.

Even though 54.57 percent of the general fund has been spent, Williams said, there are a few line items that are over the 60 percent mark. Those include several bonds for new county officials and some one-time payments such as membership dues and contributions to other entities.

Williams said there is enough in the County's reserves to take care of the line items in which all allocated money has been spent. Each of the general, road and jail funds have reserve line items.

Reserve funds, Williams said on Tuesday, come from revenue that is received above what has been anticipated.

She said that even though some of the funds have been overspent, the rest of the fiscal year remains to make some changes and try to balance those figures.

"A budget is just what you think might happen," she said. "If it doesn't happen, that's what reserve is for. I would be scared to death without our reserve."

Though the road and jail funds are above the 60 percent mark, Williams says that isn't a big concern. She said she would become concerned if the funds are more than 75 percent spent by the end of March, with three months of the fiscal year remaining.

In December, the County had used 37 percent of its general fund, 60 percent of its road fund and 27 percent of the jail fund.

Since then, Williams said, there have been many expenses, from salt and supplies to overtime pay and new administration at the detention center that have increased how much money has been spent.

In the road fund, Williams told the Committee, there are several line items that have been spent over budget, including salt and supplies, blacktop, tile, gas and tires.

"That's where we need the money at," Williams said.

In the jail fund, Williams said, revenue from state inmates is down $139,000.

"We just didn't get the prisoners," she said.

Williams told the group that Taylor County Jailer Eddie "Hack" Marcum is working to make some adjustments. She said the County is making good money housing inmates from other counties but falling short with state inmates.

Taylor County Judge/Executive Eddie Rogers said the detention center has room to house about 220 inmates but has been averaging 140 to 160.

"The state's releasing some and they're just not there," he said.

County Attorney John Bertram said if the number of state inmates doesn't increase, the County will have to become more aggressive in seeking inmates from other counties.

Magistrate James Jones said the detention center has lately been housing several state inmates from Jefferson County.

"You've got to take what they've got," he said. "Some of them are pretty rough."

Williams said the detention center's part-time staff line item is extremely over budget at 110 percent of that allocation already spent. To that end, she said, Marcum has laid off two of his employees.

"Expenditures are higher, revenues are lower," she said. "So what's the outcome for the end of the year?"

On Tuesday, Marcum, who did not attend Monday's meeting, said he believes that the layoffs, which were effective last Saturday, will be temporary.

He said he doesn't believe the layoffs will impact security at the detention center, which now stands at 37 employees.

Magistrates approved the layoff of detention center employees James Clark and Scott Durham during the regular Fiscal Court meeting on Tuesday night.

Bertram told the Committee that a community service project has been discussed with local judges and other officials that would allow inmates to work off their jail terms in the community. He said local inmates are of no financial benefit to the County and those inmates are taking beds that could be rented to another county or the state.


Next fiscal year

The County will soon begin preparing its 2011-2012 fiscal year budget, and Williams said she wants magistrates to examine the current one and begin considering where some changes could be made.

Williams said she anticipates that next year's revenue will remain about the same as this year's, though she expects retirement, hazardous pay and insurance costs will likely increase. She said magistrates need to think about whether they will give pay raises and if any services will have to be cut.

Rogers said magistrates should think about how much the County could afford to allocate toward blacktopping next fiscal year. Williams said the County spent about $500,000 last year, which paid for only the bare minimum.

By the end of this fiscal year, Williams says, the County will have paid about $500,000 on its $1 million loan for detention center startup costs. She said the County hasn't yet received money from FEMA to help offset flood damage, which could be used toward that loan. Rogers said he expects to hear from FEMA in the next week or so.

The County set aside $300,000 in the 2009-2010 fiscal year to pay on the loan, but magistrates agreed to use that money to pay for damage caused by flooding last May. The County has earmarked $300,000 to pay on the loan in the current budget, and Williams says if that and the FEMA reimbursement can be used, the loan could nearly be paid off by the end of June.

Rogers told magistrates to take the current budget and look over it item by item.

"You just need to take that thing and digest it," Rogers said. "Digest it and digest it."

Williams said looking at the County's monthly claims is also a good way to examine expenses.

"That's the best way to see where that money's being spent."

The next meeting of the Budget, Audits and Personnel Committee will be Monday, March 7 at 5:30 p.m. at the Taylor County Courthouse. It is open to the public.