NEW MADRID - Despite rising costs and lower than anticipated revenues in 2006, New Madrid County officials are upbeat about their finances for 2007.
The county's budget began 2007 with a surplus in its general revenue fund and has a projected surplus at the end of the year, according to County Clerk Clement Cravens.
"New Madrid County is going in the right direction financially," said Cravens. He credits the solid financial base to the good working relationship between officeholders and the County Commissioners along with a habit of conservative revenue estimates and careful budgeting.
The 2007 general revenue fund budget projects revenues of $4,776,154.09 and expenditures of $4,711,004.21, leaving an estimated balance in the fund of $65,000.
The county's budget anticipates revenues for the year above those collected the previous year because the county will collect the one-half cent sales tax for the first time for a full year. The tax is expected to generate approximately $1,425,000 in 2007 with approximately $356,000, or 25 percent, of the funding to be shared with the 15 incorporated cities in the county or about $24,000 each, Cravens said.
"Medical insurance premiums will increase in 2007 by approximately $45,000 due to a poor loss ratio in 2006," Cravens wrote in his budget message. However, he noted, the county changed insurance carriers and increased its self-insured risk factor thus reducing a much-higher potential premium.
Like other Southeast Missouri counties, New Madrid County also has watched revenue to the county's 911 fund drop as more individuals opt for cell phones, which do not collect the 911 tax. To counter the loss, Cravens said the county will transfer $45,000 into the fund.
"Also the ambulance district has stepped up to the plate to share the load," said Cravens, pointing out the district has agreed to pay $30,000 for dispatching services.
"We just want to be able to break even," he said about the 911 services. "The county commissioners believe this a service that regardless of the costs we should keep available to the citizens of New Madrid County."
The 2007 budget also reflects anticipated work to the county's airport. A Missouri Department of Transportation grant will help fund work on a cost-
share basis with the county to the airport. The work will include resurfacing of the existing runway, widening of the runway apron to allow for the additional parking of airplanes and paving toward the entrance to reduce the amount of chat which is blown onto the runway.
The county's road and bridge fund also ended the year with a balance on hand, although not as much as in the previous year. The county anticipates spending $1,220,000 for bridge replacement projects through the federal off-systems bridge program. Also the county commission has approved the expenditures of $85,000 for paving projects for the year.
In reflecting on the spending for 2007, Cravens again said he expected New Madrid County to end in the black.
"If things hold true as they have in the past and officeholders conservatively spend less than 90 percent of their budgets and revenue projections are accurate the general revenue budget should result in a surplus of between $550,000 and $600,000 barring any unforeseen expenditures," said Cravens.