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Commission approves the 2005 budget

Monday, February 28, 2005

NEW MADRID - While the projected deficit for 2004 didn't materialize, county officials still foresee the possibility of ending 2005 in the red.

The New Madrid County budget lists expenditures for the coming year of $3,573,018.87 with revenues projected at $3,016,374, resulting in a $557,000 shortfall. The County Commission officially approved the budget Thursday.

In his budget message County Clerk Clement Cravens pointed out the county had $2,035,685.03 on hand when the year began. This was approximately $67,000 more than the balance on hand a year ago.

The turnaround from the deficit predictions of 2004 were due to increases in real estate/personal and sales tax collections of approximately $110,000 "while ordinary expenditures were under budget in most line items and appropriations that were overestimated to ensure adequate funds in the event of unforeseen expenditures were not spent," Cravens wrote.

However, the county clerk cautioned, the surplus also is somewhat misleading. Cravens pointed out it also includes grant revenues and insurance claims of approximately $20,000 which were not spent in 2004.

Looking at the coming year, county officials remain cautious in their predictions of revenue, projecting approximately $60,000 less than received in 2004.

On the expenditure side, 2005 looks promising for county employees who received approximately a 3 percent salary increase. The pay hike is the first for county employees in some three years, Cravens said.

Also funding to the New Madrid County Extension was increased. In 2004, the County Commission funded the Extension Service the minimum amount set by law of $10,000. The 2005 budget saw the county's funding set at $29,500, a $19,500 increase from the previous year.

About $30,000 is being set aside to hire a consultant to establish a county personnel policy. According to Cravens, the policy will cover everything from job descriptions to wage brackets to ensuring the county meets federal guidelines in its employment policies. "This is something that has been needed for several years," he explained.

Additional earthquake insurance will be purchased in 2005 to ensure the county's buildings and equipment are adequately covered. Cravens noted coverage will now be at the $6 million level.

A policy change in the County Highway Department will not necessarily mean a change in the monies spent, Cravens pointed out, but will ensure equipment is maintained. A 15-year Equipment Purchase Schedule will be established "to keep all of our equipment under warranty," he said. "We are going to start the process of replacement that maintains the status of the equipment."

In conjunction with the federal Off-Systems Bridge Program, three new bridges will be built in the coming year. The county has set aside $1,075,000 as its portion for the projects.

In addition, the 2005 budget has $20,000 set aside to subsidize the county's 911 system. Also budgeted are courthouse improvements and computer security.

Expenditures follow for 2005: General Revenue Fund, $3,573,081.87; Special Road and Bridge Fund, $3,243,500; Assessment Fund, $373,227.39; Law Enforcement Training Fund, $9,500; Prosecuting Attorney Training Fund, $2,000; Johnson Grass Fund, $45,328.18; Recorder's Special Fund, $10,460; Domestic Violence Fund, $650; Prosecuting Attorney Check Collection Fund, $26,000; Sheltered Workshop Fund, $108,600; 911E Fund, $182,097.93; Law Enforcement Restitution Fund, $10,000; Ambulance Fund, $875,840 and Library Fund, $407,913.

Revenue projected for 2005 with the total funds available listed in brackets is: General Revenue Fund, $3,016,374 ($5,052,059.03) Special Road and Bridge Fund, $3,095,000 ($4,767,104.54); Assessment Fund, $425,901 ($479,664.20); Law Enforcement Training Fund, $5,000 ($14,676.89); Prosecuting Attorney Training Fund, $1,000 ($2,021.17); Johnson Grass Fund, $39,888.19 ($127,383.45); Recorders Special Fund, $11,100 ($26,953.32); Criminal Investigation Fund, no revenues ($9,445.87); Domestic Violence Fund, $650 ($725); Prosecuting Attorney Check Collection Fund, $28,000 ($61,973.78); Post Fund, $2,000 ($4,348.58); Sheltered Workshop Fund, $78,375 ($225,196.07); Fees of other funds, $200 ($8,904.67); 911 E Fund, $175,219.45 ($188,403.85); Law Enforcement Restitution Fund, $10,000 ($13,000); Ambulance Fund, $976,068.19 ($1,303,823,84); Library Fund, $408,819 ($989,904.20).