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County expects flat revenue in 2013

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By Vicky Gits

Jefferson County’s draft budget for 2013 is defined by a flat revenue picture on the one hand and increasing demands for human services and major capital projects on the other.

The bottom line is, the proposed budget cuts so deeply into reserves that the cushion will be nearly exhausted, so eventually cuts will have to be made, said County Commissioner Don Rosier.

“We have money in reserve that we saved. We created a sustainable budget,” Rosier said. “But we know we are spending the rainy-day fund. … It was a way of saying something does have to be cut. Or it leaves us in a pickle for 2014.”

“If we cut something we can add it back later, but we have to prioritize,” he said.

Revenue for fiscal 2013 is forecast to be an estimated $362 million, an increase of 0.5 percent compared with the $360.3 million in projected revenue for 2012. Operating expenses would be $348.2 million in 2013, compared with $347.6 million in 2012.

To balance the budget, the county anticipates using $24.5 million from reserve funds. 

There would be enough revenue to support 2,895 full-time employees at their current pay levels, with none getting pay boosts or cost-of-living increases.

Budget director Tina Caputo unveiled the preliminary numbers at the monthly meeting of the county commissioners on Oct. 9. A public hearing on the budget was scheduled for the commissioners’ meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 16.

Between now and December, when the final budget will be decided, there will discussions with department heads and possible changes to the figures.

The proposed 2013 budget shows property-tax revenue will remain relatively flat. Sales, fuel and auto ownership tax revenue will increase.

On the expense side, more one-time capital projects are planned than in 2012, resulting in the higher use of reserves. The capital projects in the 2013 budget include road and bridge construction and maintenance; an upgrade to IT network capacity; and a replacement of the voting system.

Capital improvement plan highlights

• Voting system replacement ($4 million)

• Sheriff’s Office fleet replacement program

Airport runway safety area construction

IT infrastructure upgrades

Parfet building remodel

Quincy Avenue widening from Kipling to Wadsworth (funded by southeast sales tax) 

Personnel

• Full-time equivalents: 2,895

• Proposed increase: four full-time equivalents