County’s general fund is healthy

(Posted Feb. 5, 2020)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

“It’s very good news all the way around,” said Madison County Commissioner Mark Forrest following the latest county budget commission report.

On Feb. 4, County Auditor Jennifer Hunter presented a three-year comparison of the county’s general fund revenues, which went from $15.5 million in 2017 to $17.8 million in 2019.

Hunter pointed out three sources of income that showed significant increases in that time period, one being the county’s conveyance fee–a fee charged to anyone purchasing property in the county.

In 2017, the commissioners approved an increase in the fee from $2 per $1,000 of property sales price to $3 per $1,000. The increase paired with a subsequent upturn in the real estate market has resulted in a substantial boost to that revenue line.

In 2017, the county collected $476,597 in conveyance fees. In 2018, collections jumped to $1.37 million. Last year, the fees brought in nearly $1 million.

Hunter noted that commercial real estate sales have boomed the past couple of years. In 2018, the county saw seven commercial property sales totaling $268 million; in 2019, another seven commercial sales totaled $139 million. She said much of that sales activity took place in West Jefferson’s industrial park area at State Route 29 and U.S. Route 40.

Another revenue source showing notable increases is interest earned on the county’s money.

“It has more than doubled in the past three years,” Hunter said, crediting the gains to the investment strategy of County Treasurer Donna Landis.

Revenues from interest were $187,513 in 2017, $335,091 in 2018, and $489,400 in 2019. Landis said she does not see interest revenues continuing to make such large gains going forward but hopes they remain steady.

Sales tax, the county’s largest source of general fund revenue, has steadily increased since 2017, when collections totalled $6.7 million. In 2018, that number came in at just shy of $7 million. Last year, the total was $7.6 million.

Last year, the county’s general fund expenses came in at $16.8 million, leaving the county $1 million in the black for that fund. County Prosecutor Stephen Pronai noted that $1 million of those expenses were for once-in-a-longtime repairs to the county courthouse.

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