Commission reviews budget, skips suggested tax increase

Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Cape Girardeau County commissioners approved a budget Monday that says the county will have $13.8 million to spend in 2003, up $300,000 from last year's budget.

At the public hearing Monday, commissioners did not discuss county auditor Weldon Macke's recommendation that the county needs to increase taxes to make up for sluggish sales tax revenue and decreased state appropriations due to the state's financial woes.

Presiding Commissioner Gerald Jones said he didn't see an immediate need to ask taxpayers for an increase.

"That's way down the line," Jones said. "We may very well need to address that, but for now, we're addressing it by living within our means."

Jones said about $800,000 in budget requests were denied.

Macke said he cut mostly from equipment. He said some department heads requested a certain amount for equipment, but did not list specifics. Macke said if repairs need to be made or if new equipment needs to be purchased, the department manager could take it up with the commissioners when those needs present themselves.

Studying the funding

The budget is split into three funds, the general revenue fund, the road and bridge fund and the capital improvement fund.

The biggest portion of the budget is the general revenue fund, which is funded by a half-cent sales tax and fees. For 2003, this portion of the budget includes 3.5 percent raises for county employees. The spending plan approved Monday anticipates general-fund revenue of $10 million plus $606,714 left over from 2002. Expenses total $10.15 million, leaving an anticipated balance of $473,637 at the end of 2003.

Macke estimated the revenue for the 2003 road and bridge budget to be $2.4 million, which includes a leftover balance of $401,080. The road and bridge budget comes mostly from property taxes and fuel taxes received by the state. After $2.37 million in budget requests, the 2003 budget anticipates a balance of $42,243 at the end of next year.

The capital improvement budget is $793,172, with $337,171 remaining from 2002. The leftover money has not been specifically budgeted; it will go toward road improvements that become necessary.

The capital improvement budget is largely funded with fees, matching funds from the state for certain projects and the interest earned from the county's $5 million emergency fund. This year, because interest rates are so low, it received only $150,000. In the past, the county has received as much as $250,000, Macke said.

No major capital improvement projects have been scheduled. The county will continue with its road surfacing program and will repair a bridge on Cedar Lake Road over Caney Fork Creek off County Road 481.

bmiller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127

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