'09 budget will be tough

Friday, January 9, 2009

Bleak projections for auto sales mean county will likely lose revenue

CHARLESTON -- The Big Three automakers' bleak sales projections are likely to make a tough year for the Mississippi County budget even tougher.

County Clerk Junior DeLay discussed the effect less sales tax from car sales is expected to have on the county's budget during a public hearing for the budget Thursday.

The hearing was held during the regular weekly County Commission meeting. DeLay explained he is required as the county's budget officer to hold a public hearing prior to the preparation of the annual budget.

"We're at that point where we're really going to have to tighten our belt," he said.

A statement showing the changes in fund balances from Jan. 1, 2008, to Dec. 31 was handed out by DeLay and reviewed by commissioners.

The balance for the general revenue fund ended the year with $10,878 less than it began with at $777,269.

The road and bridge fund ended the year with $483,084 which is $17,759 less than it started the year with.

The assessment fund ended with balance $13,024 higher than at the beginning of last year with $47,093 on Dec. 31. Revenue for this fund included a transfer of $42,222 from general revenue, however, DeLay noted.

The Johnson grass fund, which ended the year with a balance of $175,449, is up $39,120 from what it started with. Expenditures from this fund only totaled $30,102 for the year. Commissioners agreed they will either need to begin spending money in the fund or reduce the tax levy.

The law enforcement sales tax fund ended the year with $224,837 after having started with a balance of only $13,543. Included in the revenues for this fund was a $500,000 transfer from general revenue.

The positive net change of $211,294 in the law enforcement sales tax fund "should allow us to reduce the transfer" from general revenue for the 2009 budget, DeLay said.

Part of the increase in that fund is because the county received 13 months of payments from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for holding federal detainees at the Mississippi County Detention Center instead of the usual 12, according to DeLay.

He cautioned that "sales tax revenues are going to be down significantly this year."

DeLay said Ford, General Motors and Chrysler are projecting their sales to be 20-25 percent lower than last year's.

County sales tax on vehicle purchases goes to the county the purchaser lives in. DeLay said figuring on 25 percent less sales tax revenue received from the license bureau due to plunging car sales, the county can expect to lose $42,000 in the general revenue fund, $21,000 in the law enforcement fund, and $10,500 in the senior citizen sales tax fund.

DeLay said county officials need to plan accordingly when preparing the budget.

"You do not want to forecast revenues too high and then base your expenditures on that revenue," he said, as the county will then have expenditures budgeted it doesn't have the money to cover. "That's what will take the county down to its knees financially."

DeLay noted that despite low sales tax forecasts for this year, sales tax received by the county this month was actually up 12 percent over that received in January 2008.

In other business Thursday:

* Anthony Ohmes, agronomy specialist for the Mississippi County University of Missouri Extension Center, and other Extension staff members presented their annual report and budget request.

Last year went "pretty smooth for us," Ohmes said.

The Extension requested $32,000 which is the same amount received from the county in 2008.

"Thank you for your support," Ohmes said. "It keeps us going and we appreciate it."

* Silvey Barker and Claudia Arington of the county tourism council presented the tourism council's annual report and a budget request of $3,000, the same amount as last year.

Barker said the tourism council shifted more of its budget toward advertising in 2008.

"We went more regional and national," she said. "We're trying to reach outside Mississippi County to advertise our events."

* Commissioners approved a statement confirming the county has updated its Emergency Operations Plan.

DeLay said the State Emergency Management Agency provides information to update the county's EOP and requires that the plan be updated annually.

He advised the two new associate county commissioners, Robert Jackson and Steve Jones, that he would provide them with a copy of the EOP on compact disc.

"In the event of an emergency, the county commission has a lot of responsibility," DeLay said.

* Duke Presson of East Prairie asked commissioners to consider adding the upper part of the Lee Row ditch to the list of ditches to be cleaned out as part of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Emergency Watershed Protection Program.

The county is currently slated to do cleanouts with EWP funding on county Ditches 3, 10 and 14.

* At Presson's request, commissioners approved allowing those who rent county-owned farmland to make two payments due in January and July instead of a single payment in March.

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