County to start looking ahead

Published 7:15 pm Friday, July 10, 2009

The Pike County Commission budget year doesn’t begin until October, but they will kick off early this year.

Commissioners will hold their first budget hearing at 3 p.m. Monday to begin reviewing funds for the next year, and an under-funded road department likely will be the main topic of discussion.

“What I anticipate as the biggest topic of discussion is the road department budget and how we’re going to fund matching money for federal projects,” said County Administrator Harry Sanders said.

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This comes after the commission borrowed $141,000 to match federal grant money last month and discussed borrowing even more to compensate for a projected $80,000 come September.

The road department budget, funded almost solely by gas tax revenues set in 1993, hasn’t been able to keep up with rising costs of equipment and labor.

The county also has a separate general fund budget, which finances all other offices in Pike County.

While that budget is in better shape than the road department’s, Sanders said there may not be much excess to share.

“The general fund money is the most flexible,” Sanders said. “The only problem is it doesn’t have massive overages, and the only way to create overages in general fund is to reduce expenses.”

Even with reduction in spending, Sanders said it would take nearly $1 million to help the road department stay afloat.

With sales tax revenues down around 12.5 percent, that might not be such an easy task.

This is the first time the commission has seen a decline in sales tax revenues, which fund the general fund. Typically Sanders said these numbers actually increase by 3 to 4 percent a year.

“Typically from year to year, our revenues are not difficult to predict,” Sanders said. “It’s just in an economy like this it’s fearful to step our on anything.”

Sanders said he anticipates commissioners making this next budget one of the most conservative they ever have.