Scott Co. gets more money than expected

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

However, revenue generated by the 911 tax is dropping.

BENTON, Mo. -- Scott County commissioners got more than they bargained for in 2005 by bringing in more revenue than expected.

But trouble is looming for the finances of the county's 911 services, for which revenue is dropping.

The county's general revenue increased from $1.57 million in 2004 to $1.62 million in 2005, an increase of roughly 2.8 percent. A half-cent law enforcement sales tax also brought in more, from $1.57 million in 2004 to $1.61 million in 2005.

Commissioner Jamie Burger said the increases were greater than expected when the county started its budget year last January. At that time, Burger said, the county was expecting the general revenue to be about $1.575 million.

Burger said the increase in general revenue from the sales tax was most evident in the summer, possibly due to sales incentives for cars.

The 2005 revenue was greater than expenditures, said Burger, but he didn't have figures on exactly how much.

County revenue also benefited with the collection of $96,313.32 in new fees from the sheriff's department, Sheriff Rick Walter reported. Those fees included the boarding of prisoners from Sikeston, transportation of mental health patients, commissions from the use of the jail phone and fees gathered from lawyers for serving papers.

Walter said those fees hadn't been included in the county's general revenue during previous administrations, and along with other cost-saving measures they helped offset an increase in fuel costs at 143 percent of the original budget.

But while general revenue benefited from new sheriff's department policies, the revenue for the county's E-911 service is in decline.

"This is the lowest revenue we've seen since it started," Burton said of the E-911 tax implemented on telephone service more than a decade ago.

E-911 taxes saw a decrease of more than $27,000 from 2004 to 2005 as more county residents make the switch from traditional phone service to cellular phones and voice-over-Internet protocol.

"There's no doubt this is going to be a trend," said Presiding Commissioner Martin Priggel. Missouri counties currently have no way to collect taxes from new communications services.

E-911 administrator Joe Burton estimates E-911 operations will have to take operating money from general revenue in the near future, but probably not this year, unless the situation changes. The cost of operating will continue to go up as the revenue generated by the tax goes down, Burton said.

Commissioners are now looking toward 2006 budgets, as requests from departments within the county government were due by Jan. 15.

One of the extra expenditures expected in the coming year is equipment and personal to keep court records in electronic format, one for which the cost is not yet determined.

Walter has also asked for two extra patrolling deputies for his department. The cost should be offset largely by changing a receptionist and jailer position to part time, which would eliminate the benefits for those positions.

335-6611, extension 182

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