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County Looking To Balance Budget

by Tony Hernandez | August 21, 2012 at 4:48 a.m.

— The Washington County Quorum Court on Thursday set a goal to balance its 2013 budget without using any taxpayer money in reserve.

It’s an effort not attempted in at least four years, said Justice of the Peace Candy Clark, chairwoman of the Budget Committee of the Whole. The committee of all 13 justices of the peace unanimously approved this effort after an hourlong discussion.

The goal means the committee will have to cut millions of dollars from the dozens of departmental funds kept by full-time elected officials, such as the county judge and the sheriff, in order to match projected revenue with projected spending.

BY THE NUMBERS

UNSPENT CASH IN 2011

Official Number Of Budgets Total Budget Unspent Cash % Of Budget

Legislative branch

Quorum Court 1 $150,383 $27,575 18

Executive branch

County Judge 16 $23,282,958 $4,732,814 20

Sheriff 7 $19,424,177 $1,466,058 8

Treasurer 2 $286,111 $31,538 11

Coroner 1 $139,038 $13,238 10

Circuit Clerk 2 $2,337,706 $391,264 17

Assessor 2 $2,923,321 $245,875 8

Tax Collector 2 $1,250,449 $182,674 15

County Clerk 3 $568,176 $127,435 22

Prosecuting Attorney 1 $952,260 $17,679 2

Source: Staff Report

Last year, the county used $6.7 million from reserves to match projected spending, Clark said. Justices of the peace adopted a $69.9 million budget for 2012 that includes a $29.7 million general fund.

To achieve this goal, each of the full-time officials and their departmental leaders will have to present their 2013 budgets to the Quorum Court between now and the end of the year. Last year, only those who wanted spending increases sat at budget meetings with justices of the peace.

Earlier this year, the budget committee gave the message they only intended to cut unspent cash, known as carryover. The carryover figure is calculated when the county closes its books in March.

“If they have to carry over a line item from last year, I think they need to explain why it should stay in their budget or why it should come out. ... They have to justify their budgets,” said Ann Harbison, justice of the peace.

Harbison proposed the first part of the goal: All elected officials and departments will approach the budget committee. Eva Madison, justice of the peace, later proposed the committee look to adopt a budget that spends no more money than what is brought in one year’s worth of projected revenue.

Madison said this effort is not to punish the elected officials.

“We’re the legislative body charged with budgeting it and appropriating it and we’re just giving back to the elected official what comes in. ... We are just fulfilling our duty to the taxpayer,” Madison said.

Roger Haney, county treasurer, should make his final projections sometime in September or October, comptroller Cheryl Bolinger told the committee. The county comptroller’s office reported $13.7 million in reserves in July.

“I’m not sure how this will all play out once we start looking at budgets and carryover and requests for new spending, if there are any,” Clark said after the meeting.

Print Headline: County Looking To Balance Budget

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