Budget will be similar to last year

Friday, February 10, 2006

CHARLESTON -- Mississippi County's operating budget for 2006 will be pretty much the same as last year's, according to County Clerk Junior DeLay.

County commissioners approved the budget after a public hearing during their regular meeting Thursday.

In presenting the budget, DeLay said there are "no major projects, no major changes in operations," he said.

This year's budget consists of 35 different funds with total revenue projected to be $6,139,740. "We're conservative in how we forecast our revenues," DeLay said.

A total of $6.8 million in expenditures was budgeted for an operating deficit of $660,837 for the year.

In his budget message, DeLay noted that as the county started the year with $1,838,143, "the net funds available for appropriation are sufficient to cover the annual operating deficit."

The county's general revenue fund began 2006 with a fund balance of $703,632 with revenues forecast at $1,441,400 for a total of $2,145,032 available for appropriation.

As budgeted expenditures for general revenue are $1,598,977 the projected year-end balance is $546,055 for this fund.

"Over the past year, the Detention Center sustained its level of revenues but expenditure levels were dramatically reduced from the previous year," DeLay wrote. The result was a smaller transfer to the law enforcement fund was needed from general revenue, in turn resulting in "a much-healthier balance than that of the '04 fiscal year end."

The general revenue budget for 2006 includes allocations to fund an upgrade for the courthouse's aging mainframe computer system "that will be more suited to accommodate the demand placed on the system by the county's financial operations," according to DeLay.

The prosecutor's budget was increased as this is the first year the county will pay the assistant prosecutor's entire salary, DeLay said. The assistant prosecutor was originally hired with a grant that required the county to fund the position for 18 months after the grant expired.

Two countywide elections that will take place this year will require an increase in general revenue expenditures as well.

The road and bridge fund's starting balance of $388,645 for this year is somewhat inflated, according to DeLay, because a reimbursement for bridge construction did not arrive until the final day of the 2005 calendar year.

Also, the final construction payment for the bridge will be made this year, inflating the expenditure side of this fund.

DeLay said the Road and Bridge Department had a good year in 2005 as its work force was reduced through attrition and expenditures were curtailed to bring the department in $45,000 under budget even after going over budget on the fuel line item due to high fuel costs.

The assessment fund is basically the same as last year, according to DeLay. A beginning balance of $140 and revenues projected at $179,050 will cover an expenditure allocation of $179,190.

The law enforcement fund began the year with a balance of $2,194. Including a $420,000 transfer from general revenue, revenues for this fund are projected at $2,358,992. Appropriated expenditures, which cover operations at the Sheriff's Department and both the adult and juvenile portions of the county's detention center, total $2,361,120.

DeLay said Bob Whitehead, jail administrator, has restructured the organization this year in an attempt to make operations more efficient while at the same time controlling personnel costs

Whitehead said he expects an increase in the number of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement prisoners the county will be asked to hold, DeLay said, as field agents still in training last year will be out working the field this year, resulting in more ICE prisoners for the county.

The budget also accounts for a $72,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development grant the department is applying for to buy three more vehicles. The grant requires the county to contribute $18,000 in matching funds.

"In summation, Mississippi County is currently in a 'holding pattern,' insofar as finances are concerned," DeLay wrote in closing his budget message. "While there has been some business growth in the county over the past couple of years, it has been virtually offset by businesses that have closed or moved away."

The declining population "serves to erode the county's tax base," he continued.

Tax incentive programs to bring in new businesses and expand existing ones "are necessary and vital to the future economic growth of Mississippi County," DeLay wrote.

In other business Thursday, Joe E. Lane, director of community planning for the Bootheel Regional Planning and Economic Development Commission at Malden, presented the BRPC's proposal for administering the Community Development Block Grant for the second phase of the Mississippi County Public Water Supply District No. 1

The BPRC bid of $22,000 was the sole bid submitted for the grant's administration.

As there were fewer than three bids, the Department of Economic Development must give its approval before the contract can be approved by commissioners, according to DeLay.

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