New Madrid County finished in black and surplus funds increased
NEW MADRID -- A full-year of revenue from the half-cent sales tax approved by New Madrid County voters in 2006 made balancing the budget in 2007 much easier for county officials.
New Madrid County Clerk Clement Cravens said closing the books on the past year showed the county remained in the black and even increased its surplus funds.
According to Cravens, the half-cent tax brought in about a million dollars for county purposes in addition to funds which were shared with communities in the county.
"What the sales tax has done is allowed the county the ability to eliminate the deficit spending cycle we were in," said Cravens.
Also positively impacting the county's 2007 budget were efforts by county officials to hold the line on expenditures. The county clerk pointed out nearly every fund came in under budget.
There were a few exceptions - for reasons which might sound familiar to any homeowner - rising fuel costs and the surprises that come when trying to repair any older structure.
While investigating a water leak last year at the New Madrid County Courthouse, plumbers discovered one line supplied water to the entire building. Also they determined the only way to effectively deal with the water problem would be to abandon the old lines and replumb the entire building.
"There is water in more places than you think in a courthouse," said Cravens. In addition to installing new lines, Cravens said, the workers also established a system of valves so if any future leaks occur, they can turn off the water to a specific area and make repairs there.
The unanticipated work, which cost more than $40,000, bumped up the buildings and grounds portion of the general revenue to $163,629.54 from planned expenditures of $149,218.40.
Also an additional $8,000 was required by the sheriff's department. According to Cravens this was due to the rising cost for fuel and for repairs to an aging fleet of patrol vehicles.
As part of the effort to improve the vehicles used by the sheriff's department, Cravens said U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development funds, approved in 2007, will add three new vehicles on a cost-share basis and more funding is being sought for an additional four sheriff department vehicles in 2008.
While there was $2,000 transferred from the general revenue fund into the airport fund for repairs and upkeep, the county will move "full steam ahead" into improvements at the airport in 2008, Cravens said. An airport plan was created based on past Missouri Department of Transportation aviation inspections which pointed out issues of safety such as cracks in the runways, the county clerk explained.
Funded primarily through MoDOT, the grant has alloted money annually over five years which the county anticipates expending fully in 2008. Resurfacing of the runway is complete while other work includes expanding airport aprons and making improvements around the facility located just north of Marston.
The only true revenue shortfall in 2007 was the sales tax.
When comparing the tax to what was anticipated, Cravens said his office noticed a shortfall early last year and contacted the Missouri Department of Revenue. Further research determined the ballot language approved by voters did not assess the tax specifically for domestic utilities. A resolution adopted in late summer by the commission resolved the problem, assessing the tax on those businesses which sell utility services within the county.
With 2007's budget numbers wrapped up, the county commission has been tallying up the numbers for 2008. The final budget review and approval is scheduled for Thursday.