County growing surplus

Published 11:00 pm Thursday, January 9, 2014

After finishing 2013 with a surplus in excess of $1 million, the Pike County Commission is hoping to use sound financial planning and frugality to increase that surplus in 2014.

Harry Sanders, Pike County Administrator, said the biggest thing the commission accomplished in 2013 was improving the county’s bond rating. “Our bond ratings improved over 2012 and 2013,” Sanders said. “When we issued bonds last year, our bond ratings improved for the second straight year. We’re pleased to see our finances improving. Our financial planning has allowed that to happen.”

Reaching financial stability has been a long road for Pike County government. Less than a decade ago, the government operated at an $8 million deficit. “Over time, we have tried to be more cost-conscious,” Sanders said. “Over the past few years, we have been more focused on reducing our costs than undergoing any construction projects. Some of the biggest areas of cost that local governments have are interest payments on large sums of money that you have to borrow for capital projects. If you decrease the interest on debt like that, it substantially decreases how much money you have to pay. That’s why improving our bond rating is more important.”

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It’s not just improved interest rates that have helped turn the county’s finances around. “It’s been small, incremental savings that we’ve found that have helped us save so much money,” Sanders said. “We’ve gone through reductions in staffing and have focused on having greater efficiency in the way we accomplish things. We are being more frugal in the way we spend money. Every department in the county government is watching every penny that it spends. It takes all of our elected officials and department heads working together.”

Sanders had high praise for Pike County’s elected officials. “All of our elected officials have to receive a lot of credit for watching every dime they spend,” Sanders said. “Little things add up to be larger things. Every department has had to try to do more with less. Every department in the county has reduced staff and reduced spending.”

And, the county government has seen an increase in revenue in recent years. “The biggest increase in revenue for the county government happened in 2007,” Sanders said. “There was a redistribution of a 1 percent sales tax that helped to fund the government. But, more than increasing revenue, it has been a bunch of day-to-day things that have helped turn our financial situation around.”

Though the county has improved its financial situation tremendously, Sanders said the county still has trouble funding the Pike County Road Department. “Our biggest challenge for the upcoming year is to do the work the citizens expect from us with the current funding we have for the road department,” Sanders said. “The work that people will notice most will be the work we do on the ATRIP projects we have going on around the county. People will especially notice the work we do on the roads within the City of Troy.”

For 2014, the Pike County Commission will hold meetings on the second and fourth Mondays of every month. Work session begins at 5:15 p.m. with the actual meeting held at 6 p.m. The commission next meets Jan. 13.