Calculation responsible for drastic

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 26, 2001

variation in county budget


Staff Writers

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When the Pike County Commission approved its budget for the new fiscal year taxpayers across the county had questions the drastic difference in the county budget from one year to the next.

At first glance the variation in the 2000-2001 budget and the 2001-2002 budget was $2.7 million, but once Mark Tyner, county administration, explained the difference in calculation the contrast wasn’t quite as drastic.

Tyner said the $8.887 million budget passed by the Pike County Commission would be $10.1 million if calculated as was done a year ago. The $1 million difference can be attributed to the bond issue that paid for renovations to the Pike County Courthouse.

The way each line item was addressed was as different as the two administrators who worked on the budgets. Last year’s $11.6 million budget was done by former administrator Steve Hicks.

"One way’s not right or wrong," Tyner said of the differences. "Steve just went ahead and added everything together."

When Tyner began preparing the budget for the new fiscal year he chose more of a line-item approach.

Some of the money added into revenues included putting Road and Bridge funds into the General Fund.

"That’s primarily where the increase came from," Tyner said.

The big difference came when money was budgeted for different line items. Some areas, such as salaries were underbudgeted, last year, meaning more money had to be moved. That is one factor that contributed to the outside agencies losing funding.

Actual revenues collected during the 2000-2001 fiscal year came to $2.7 million and the county is projecting a collection of $3.1 million this year. That money comes from the state gasoline tax, which is projected to bring $846,000 this year, the United States Department of Agriculture, equipment rental, interest, gas sales and shop charges to other departments, the Workman’s Compensation Fund and equipment sales.

With the county expecting $.5 million more in revenues for this year local agencies that had been funded for years couldn’t understand why were getting cut.

For the Pike County Commission the answer was easy – there is not enough money – but making the decision to cut funds to 12 agencies was a difficult one.

By law the Pike County Commission is obligated to pass the budget for the new fiscal year, by Oct. 1. In this case and according to Commissioner Larry Meeks, the budget had to be passed with the numbers that were available at the time.

"We were having a difficult time with the budget," Meeks said. "We didn’t want to have to cut the agencies, but at the time it’s what we had to do."

Meeks said he didn’t know at the time the exact reason there was a shortage of funds, but the commission expected cuts would have to be made when the commission was forced to borrow money at the end of the 2001 fiscal year to meet obligations.

Those obligations and the shortage of money came from "a lot of overrun moving to and from the old Wal-Mart building and to make the building usable," Meeks said.

"There were a lot of big issues we had to deal with and it put us out of budget."

Some of the items Meeks mentioned that were an unexpected blow to the budget was a $400,000 phone system at the Pike County Jail and rewiring for heating and cooling systems.

"Neither us nor the architects saw any of these complications," he said.

When the commission was faced with borrowing money at the end of last fiscal year to make ends meet, Meeks said it was a rushed decision.

"I voted against borrowing the money," he said. "I felt like I needed more time to make sure we were making the right decision."

Meeks didn’t get the extra time he wanted and the commission voted to borrow the money to get through the end of the year.

But borrowing the money at the end of the last fiscal year put a strain on the budget this year and local agencies are suffering.

"I truly regret not being able to give these agencies money, but we had to approve the budget at that time," Meeks said. "When money comes available we plan to re-budget these agencies. When we have some money coming in I will be more than happy to fund these agencies. These are the people that ring Pike County cash registers."

Meeks said money is expected to be available in about six weeks, and when it is the commission plans to go back and revisit and re-fund the agencies.