The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

December 31, 2013

Auditor predicts cuts for Jasper County budget

CARTHAGE, Mo. — There’s every likelihood that Jasper County will be looking at making cuts to a preliminary budget that’s been under review by the County Commission since early November.

That prediction came Tuesday from Richard Webster, county auditor and budget officer, who said county revenues have fallen short of matching what had been estimated for spending in the general fund, which finances most county operations.

The commissioners agreed to take no action on the spending plan that Webster presented during a Dec. 3 hearing. The auditor at the time said more cuts might be needed if year-end revenues were not enough to match expenditures estimated for 2014.

As proposed, the general fund budget estimates expenditures for 2014 at more than $16.4 million and revenues at more than $14.9 million. That means the county would need at least $1.5 million in carry-over funds to balance the budget.

On Tuesday, the year-end balance was calculated at just over $1,078,000, including $800,000 in county tax collections. That number a year ago totaled $1,585,000, Webster said.

“I’m glad we decided to wait and see how revenues ended up before doing anything,” said John Bartosh, presiding commissioner. “We’ll have to wait and see what Richard recommends next week.”

By law, the county must adopt a budget by Jan. 10. The commission’s next regularly scheduled meeting is Tuesday, Jan. 7.

Bartosh earlier said he did not want the commission to adopt a budget and then have to go back and cut spending.

As of midday Tuesday, Webster said, the county had “received all the revenue we’re going to get for the year, and paid all our bills.”

To produce a revised, balanced budget, Webster said, “I’ll be going back through each office and look at where we might be able to make cuts.”

General revenue sales tax collections for the year ended up at just over $6,036,000, down from just over $6,222,000 a year earlier.

Webster said he had estimated sales tax revenue for the year at $6 million. “We expected it to go down for the year,” he said. “That (2012 total) was higher because it included so much rebuilding from the Joplin tornado.”

Webster said the proposed budget contains no significant spending hikes from this year’s figures. The largest single increase — $230,000 — will be to fund primary and general elections in 2014. Costs also are up in workers’ health insurance costs. The budget includes no allocation for workers’ raises.

The general fund budget for the 2013 fiscal year estimated expenditures at $16 million and revenues at $14 million.

Newton County

WORK IS UNDER WAY on a proposed budget for Newton County, said Kay Baum, county clerk. She said officials hope to keep spending in the same range of this year’s general revenue budget, at $9.4 million. A budget hearing is set for Jan. 16, she said.

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