Madison County commissioners will use cash reserves to balance an approximate $640,000 revenue shortfall in the 2013 budget.
The county government anticipates less revenues next year due to a drop of over 10 percent in the county digest (overall property value), which means local tax collections will be down this year.
The board agreed to balance the budget with reserve money by a 4-1 vote, with John Pethel providing the lone “No.”
County leaders anticipate roughly $5 million in reserves at the end of the year. Board members noted that the county government didn’t have any reserves several years ago and had to borrow money to balance the budget.
“We’re fortunate to have that cash on hand to do what we’re doing,” said commissioner Mike Youngblood. “A lot of counties haven’t bit the bullet and made the cuts we have and our employees have. If we didn’t have these funds, we’d have to make drastic changes…We put the reserves in place for times like this.”
Pethel said the county has pulled $1 million from reserves to balance the budget over the past two years.
“If next year is worse, will we pull another $640,000 out of reserves or will we do something different?” he asked.
But commission chairman Anthony Dove said there’s a distinction between budgeting money and actually using it. For instance, last year, the county budgeted more money from reserves than were actually used. And if the county hadn’t purchased buildings for Fine Finish, the government wouldn’t have needed any reserve funds for this year. The chairman said departments could come in under budget in 2013 and eliminate the need to use reserves. So, $1 million budgeted over two years is accurate, but that doesn’t necessarily reflect what is actually spent.
Commissioner Jim Escoe said some of the money should go back to taxpayers.
“If we have that much, why not do a mill (tax rate) roll back and give some to the taxpayers?” asked Escoe. “We could have done that and still had plenty in reserves.”