Financial outlook: ‘The county… is very healthy’

(Posted Jan. 2, 2017)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

While the county’s 2017 general fund budget is $435,000 higher than last year, it’s estimated revenue for the coming year is nearly $900,000 more than in 2016.

“We are budgeting under our estimated revenue considerably,” said Madison County Commissioner David Dhume.

On Dec. 27, the commissioners approved a $12.6 million budget for 2017. The budget for 2016 was $12.2 million.

Dhume said a 3 percent raise for county employees accounts for $250,000 of the increase. The remainder he chalks up to the increased cost of doing business (postage, supplies, insurance, etc.). He also noted that the court system is looking into adding probation officers.

County employees received a 2.5 percent raise in 2016 when health insurance costs were up 15 percent. The insurance increase for 2017 is much smaller, so more money is available to cover a 3 percent raise, Dhume said.

He added, “We wanted to keep (the raise percentage) in line with existing labor contracts. We feel our unrepresented staff work as diligently as our represented staff.”

Dhume and Commissioner Mark Forrest commended the county’s department heads for their frugality and for submitting budget requests that were “relatively flat,” deviating little from last year’s requests.

On the income side, the county budget commission, headed up by county Auditor Jennifer Hunter, estimates the county will bring in $14.3 million in revenues in 2017, up from $13.4 million in 2016.

Property and sales taxes are top revenue sources. Sales tax alone was up 8 percent in 2016 over 2015, Forrest said. The county also earns income through investments, leases on county-owned property, and loans to local government and school entities.

Excess revenues over budgeted needs will go into the county’s reserve fund. Anything left in the reserve fund at the end of the year will carry over to 2018.

“The county, in my mind, is very healthy (financially),” Dhume said.

“All of our eggs aren’t in one basket. There’s diversification in everything we do,” Forrest said.

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