The Fayette Citizen-News Page
Wednesday, June 30, 1999
County approves $49 million budget

Staff Writer

After poring over the figures in five special work sessions, Fayette County commissioners have added almost a half million dollars to the county budget for fiscal 2000.

Commissioners last week approved a total operating budget of $49 million and change, $461,394 higher than the original $48.6 million budget document presented by the finance and administration staff last month.

Commissioner Greg Dunn, who took office in January, said he was somewhat surprised at how lean the budget was when county staff turned it over to the commission. “We didn't find the waste and the nonsense in the budget that we would have found a year ago,” Dunn told The Citizen this week. “I think they did a darned good job,” he said of the staff.

Money to fund the increased expenditures will come from increased revenue projections. At the commissioners' request, finance director Emory McHugh revised revenue estimates upward in five categories for a total of $500,000.

Most of the increase in expenditures, $376,255, will provide more deputies, cars and equipment for the Sheriff's Department, and commissioners approved the change after learning that the department is handling increasing numbers of emergency calls while maintaining low crime rates in the county.

When the sheriff's increase was approved, Commissioner Herb Frady urged his colleagues to dig into the budget and cut other programs to make up the difference, but as department head after department head explained budget requests to the commissioners during special meetings, the cuts were not forthcoming.

Commissioners did cut $3,600 from their own budget for cell phones and pagers, and reduced the marshal's office request by $5,268. An additional $9,000 was slashed from the parks and recreation budget.

But the group also added $25,000 to help fund a future senior citizens' center, $4,695 for the Physical Health Department, $3,425 for the Zoning Department, $9,136 for an additional clerk in the State Court, $12,751 for more help in the tax commissioner's office, and $48,000 in contingency funds.

The final budget represents about a 4.3 percent increase over actual expenditures in fiscal 1999.

In a memo to the board, McHugh said the increased estimates represent “form over substance.”

“The fact of the matter is that the board has decided to increase appropriations for the upcoming fiscal year and that decision will ultimately impact the bottom line for operations in FY2000 as well as for future periods,” McHugh wrote.

In previous years, he said, staff has estimated revenues conservatively, just in case there's an economic downturn. The economy has done well for the last several years, but McHugh warned the board not to become too complacent.

“An unfortunate side effect of operating in favorable economic conditions for such an extended period of time is that it lulls one into a false sense of financial security,” he wrote.

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