Boone County to use reserve funds to balance budget

Friday, December 11, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Boone County will use reserve funds to balance the budget for the third year in a row under a proposed spending plan for 2010 that was the subject of a public hearing Thursday.

The Boone County Commission plans to approve the budget in mid- to late December. There was no public comment at Thursday's hearing.

The proposed $54.9 million budget, assembled by Boone County Auditor June Pitchford and including internal service funds, projects county revenue of about $47.2 million. That means the county would have to take about $7.7 million from its reserves, which now have about $12 million.

Pitchford said the county is using "conservative but realistic" revenue projections for the coming year. Those projections include no change in sales tax revenue, which experienced decreases in 2008 and 2009.

The county expects to receive $25.5 million in sales tax revenue next year, which would represent about 54 percent of the total income for the county.

Pitchford said the budget includes major cuts in overtime, travel and training expenses. It includes no salary increases, some increased fees and no change in property tax rates.

"We are trying to be as conservative as possible when cutting programs and positions because that has a direct impact on citizens," Pitchford said.

Property taxes are projected to net about $4.1 million, which is about 8.7 percent of the county's budget.

The remaining portion of the county's revenues largely comes from charges for services (21.6 percent) and intergovernmental (8.7 percent).

The commission discussed raising property taxes earlier this year to help balance the budget but decided to rely on reserves instead.

While cutting costs, the county has not reduced services; it eliminated  two vacant clerical positions, Pitchford said.

Pitchford's budget report said any further decline in sales tax revenue or state reductions in reimbursements for housing prisoners or juvenile offenders could put the county in serious financial risk.

Northern District Commissioner Skip Elkin said the budget process has been smooth despite the down economy.

"I think everyone in the community and everyone internal understands the budget situation," he said.

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