CHARLESTON - The 2002 Mississippi County budget adopted by county commissioners has no highlights, no major purchases, "just an operating budget," according to Junior DeLay, county clerk, as the county enters a fiscal "maintenance mode."
DeLay presented the budget and delivered the budget message for an open hearing during Thursday's county commission meeting.
In his budget message DeLay said 2002 "will test our fiscal management capabilities" as the county enters its first full fiscal year since the Wal-Mart closed, which was "the county's second largest producer of sales tax revenue," according to DeLay.
Adding in the effect the loss of Wal-Mart's traffic has on other retailers, DeLay predicted the loss of sales tax revenue at 16 percent, "a serious blow to a county that is so dependent on its sales tax revenues."
Although experts are forecasting an improvement in the economy this year, DeLay said "Mississippi County has traditionally lagged behind any national recoveries."
The retirement of the courthouse's debt service last year "provides much needed relief from the decline in sales tax revenues," DeLay said, and budgets were for the most part frozen at 2001 levels to offset the revenue loss.
He said sales taxes that were approved by voters and an expanding economy had allowed the county to operate in a "progressive mode" in recent years.
"Mississippi County has prospered over the last several years and has been able to accomplish much in the areas of capital projects, technological advances and personnel enhancements, all of which have provided for improved service delivery to the residents of Mississippi County," DeLay said.
DeLay encouraged county officials and employees to "engage in a conservative mindset ... to ensure the county's future financial well being."
He also cautioned that while it is not currently affecting the county, providing an affordable health care insurance plan with an acceptable level of service "could create a troublesome situation in the future."
Presiding Commissioner Jim Blumenberg said the commission will "definitely have to watch things" and expressed his hope that revenue projections were conservative enough.
In other Mississippi County commission business:
* Commissioners reviewed a letter from Steve Duke, transportation planning coordinator for the Missouri Department of Transportation, inviting them to a meeting Feb. 26.
Topics will include regional transportation needs and Federal Highway and Waterway Act programs for cities, counties and regional planning committees.
A letter from the Kentucky Department of Transportation was also reviewed which invited county officials to a series of meetings with Kentucky officials to gather input and discuss key issues for inclusion in a east-west Interstate 66.
Blumenberg said at least one Mississippi County commissioner should attend each of the meetings.
Commissioners agreed being included in a I-66 route would have a huge positive economic impact on the county.
* Commissioners approved $3,000 for a Geographic Information System needs assessment study by Midland GIS Solutions of Sunrise Beach.
* Commissioners discussed trading off two of the sheriff department's Crown Victorias and a Jeep for two SUVs and a car.
They agreed to purchase regular models instead of heavy-duty police interceptor models as road deputies are not in the business of pursuits like the highway patrol, but just require "a good means of transportation," said Homer Oliver, commissioner.
* There will be no county commission meeting Thursday.