Supervisors hold budget workshop

Published 4:50 pm Thursday, August 7, 2008

County supervisors tested budget waters Wednesday afternoon but spent much of the time getting up to speed on the intricacies of the budget process.

This will be the first county budget experience for four of the five supervisors. Only District One Supervisor and board president Anthony Hales is a veteran of the details involved in funding the county.

County Administrator Adrain Lumpkin outlined sources of revenue available to the general fund from which the bulk of county agencies derive their funding.

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Projected revenue figures from general fund sources for the 2008-2009 budget year are $16,087,080. This is down from the three previous budget years of 2007-08, 2006-07, and 2005-06, which reflected monies coming into the county in direct relation to the impact of hurricane Katrina, but is higher than the $11,468,573 of the 2004-05 year. The highest year, 2005-06, was $92,343,263 for general fund revenue.

Lumpkin said the projected figures are generated by the computer using the current costs to date (nine months) with the final three months of the previous year. He said by Monday he would update those figures using 11 months of the current year to give the board a more accurate accounting.

Preliminary estimated general fund budget expenditures for the current year are $16,079,340, according to figures compiled by Lumpkin. Current budgetary requests are totaled at $9,606,371.00 but these do not yet include figures for the Sheriff’s Department, including the jail.

That department was budgeted $6,496,069 for 2006-07 and costs for the current year are estimated to be at $7,992,735. Balanced against budget requests from the remaining county departments, that leaves approximately $6,400,000 for the Sheriff’s Department in the upcoming budget year, a $2 million shortfall.

“That’s scary,” said District Three’s Hudson Holliday.

There is another point thatLumpkin said supervisors need to consider when looking at personnel costs. He said four officers’ salaries are funded from Katrina-related sources.

“But that grant’s up; they got to go somewhere else (for funding those salaries). The only place to go is the general fund,” Lumpkin said. He said there are another two or three officers also being funded with separate grant money.

He suggested using some drug forfeiture money as a source of salary funding.

While personnel is a constant in the budget equation, insurance costs are a “wild card” and Lumpkin estimates a possible 65 percent increase in that area, noting that the past year had been one of the worst years for county health claims.

Despite all these issues, Hales said the preliminary figures aren’t as bad as he anticipated.

Lumpkin said factoring in allowances for growth in the county might make it possible to leave millage rates at their current level.

Also, some of the budgeted line items may no longer need to be factored in, he said, pointing to a $2,500 figure for the state burn center that doesn’t exist anymore. The money remains with the county if it is not requested, he said. Board members indicated that they suspect there may be other items that could be removed or revised.

Board members plan to study the figures, compare them against line item department expenditures and return Monday to begin meeting with department heads following the 9 a.m. regular meeting. At this time the departments will present their requests with justifications.

“We’ve got to start figuring out ways to be more cost-effective on what we do,” Lumpkin said. “I know we got to fund them (the departments) to the best we can … but at this certain time, we only have so much money, we can only come up with so much money…”

Supervisors have to finalize the budget by Sept. 15 to allow time for it to be advertised prior to the Oct. 1 start of the new budget year.