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County Commission Communications
A Periodic Column Written by Ed Douglas, Presiding Commissioner

JANUARY 27, 2016

Our county budget is six full pages. I have made on attempt to use the same basic format as our official budget in a summarized form of only one page. Instead of 28 separate funds, I have listed the six largest funds and grouped the other 22 small and designated funds into an "other" category.Other funds are all under $100,000, and most are much smaller and designated for special purposes. I have also grouped revenue by type and have footnoted each revenue category which I believe, in the process, explains many of the expense categories too. For those interested, a high level summary follows in an overview.

BUDGET SUMMARY: The budget is very tight again this year, but county officers all work well together to hold their budgets flat or nearly flat. County Clerk, Sherry Parks, and her staff did an excellent job in preparing for data for our consideration and finalizing the actual budget. Our operating funds are our general fund and law enforcement fund. Historically, in order to balance our budget, we use the remaining cash in these funds from the end of the year to make up the difference between expense and revenues. This year, the beginning total balance in these two funds was $439,000 which was $41,000 less to start with than last year. Our ending balance in these two funds after completing the budget is about $79,000 ($31,000 in the general and $48,000 in the law enforcement) meaning we have very little actual operating reserves. This makes it very difficult to handle unexpected expenses. For comparison purposes, it should be noted that several counties around us have over $2 million each in reserves. Our biggest concern this year was the 13% increase in per day prisoner cost from $30 to $34, increasing our overall costs by $62,000. The Davis-DeKalb Jail Board planned to increase this cost to $40 per day which would have added nearly $100,000 more in costs, but we negotiated the lower rate until August of 2017. Our sheriff, Prosecuting Attorney, and judges are all working together with us to manage this expense (jail population) which is budgeted to cost $480,000 in 2016. Our net jail cost is closer to $200,000 after partial reimbursement from the State of Missouri from prisoners convicted and sent to prison and repayment of jail bill by individual prisoners. (People sent to jail actually owe their bill to the county, and we do recover a significant part, but far from all of it.)

The elected officers did such a good job of not increasing budgets that we were able to budget a 2% cost of living increase. Our business is a service business, and our people are important. Therefore, it is important for us as a Commission to do what we can to compensate them as fairly as we are able. Compensation is not excessive. Starting hourly wages for office staff is $9.65 and most all of our office staff are limited to a 35 hour work week.

Finally, our Commission believes that going forward, in order to meet the needs or our county, we will need to place a revenue measure (mostly likely a sales tax increase) on the ballot in 2017. We currently have by far the lowest per cent sales tax of all surrounding counties. Going forward, we believe that we need resources to do several things that we feel are absolutely necessary: 1) Cover increasing jail costs, 2) Build an operating reserve fund, 3) Assist the townships in improving county roads, and 4) Cover a growing 911 Emergency deficit.

I hope this summary budget is helpful. Please feel free to contact us with any questions you might have.

This chart reflects actual revenues and expenses for each fund in 2015. >> See Chart

Here is an explanation of the funds shown in the chart:

  • GENERAL REVENUE: This fund and the Law Enforcement Fund are the County's Operating Funds. The balance of these two funds at the beginning of the year decreased $42,000. Historically, the county has had to use our cash balance in these accounts to make the budget work-meaning we have very little actual operating reserve. The General Sales tax rate is 1/2% and last year amounted to $1,109,000.
  • LAW ENFORCEMENT FUND: This sales tax is 1/4% and last year amounted to $555,000.
  • USE TAX: The use tax is the sales tax that business pays for out of state purchases. It is the same 1/2 cent general fund tax and 1/4 cent law enforcement tax listed above and amounted to $113,000 last year. This fund is designated for large fixed asset purchases like Courthouse Major Maintenance items.
  • SPECIAL ROAD AND BRIDGE FUND: The revenue in this category shows up in Intergovernmental Revenue. It includes State Statutory fees and commissions; 5% of real estate and personal property ($85,000), and motor vehicle sales tax and motor vehicle fees ($112,000 and $59,000 respectively). Additionally, revenue for this fund come from CART Rock funds ($422,000) which comes from the State Gas Tax, most of which is given to townships to purchase rock. This fund also has budgeted $900,000 for replacing three of our most deficient county bridges. 80% of this money comes from the Federal Government through the State on an 80% match of our 20% match. These bridges will most likely be built over the next two or three years but the money is budgeted this year to be sure it is available. On average the county usually receives about $200,000 of funds each year from the Federal Government for bridge replacement. The Road and Bridge fund ending balance is budgeted to be $75,000 higher than last year. Revenue increased approximately $25,000 and we had some larger purchases last year than budgeted this year.
  • ASSESSMENT FUND: These fees come to the assessor's office, a State statutory 1.7% of collections plus other reimbursements from the State which finances the Assessor's office.
  • 911 FUND: The County budgeted $144,000 revenue from a phone land line tax the County receives for this purpose. The County contracts with the City who operates the 911 service for us. The County gives these fees to the City and by agreement shares 37% of the remaining deficit which for the County budget this year is a deficit of $82,000.
  • OTHER FUNDS: This category includes 22 other statutory funds, most of which are very small. The two largest of the 22 funds are the Senior Citizens Fund Tax, ($87,000) which is passed through to Seniors, and a transfer of $82,000 for the Special Elections Fund for this year's elections. An example of these smaller funds is the Child Abuse Fund, ($1300 budget) set up by State statute, collected by the Recorder's office and used for this purpose.

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