County commission keeps eye on budget

Shelby County’s general fund budget has seen better days, but things could be much worse.

That’s the message County Finance Manager Butch Burbage gave county commissioners during a work session Monday.

Six months into this year’s budget, actual general fund revenue is $1.8 million short of the budgeted amount.

However, that deficit can be misleading, Burbage said.

The county still expects to collect close to $1 million from late property taxes and property tax fees.

“It’s a wash,” Burbage said. “We are actually saving more than the forecasted budget loss right now. We’re taking every step possible to make sure we don’t have one of those ‘uh ohs’ at the end of the year.”

The county has also taken other cost-cutting actions that will save an additional $3.9 million, Burbage said.

The county’s capital projects budget has been slashed by $1.3 million. Burbage estimates the county will save another $1.9 million by not filling some open job positions and cutting equipment and fuel expenses.

Some of the county’s biggest hits have come from declining sales tax revenue.

Sales tax is down 5.4 percent compared to this time last year. Through March, the county has collected $11.8 million in sales tax, down from $12.5 million in 2008.

“Last year, at this time, I couldn’t foresee our sales taxes dropping like this,” Burbage said.

The county license office’s collections are also down — $834,000 so far this year.

Burbage said people are keeping older cars, which generate less money for the county.

“We are just not registering new cars,” he said.

The commission will have their work cut out from them when they start working on next year’s budget this summer.

“We are going to have to look at the budget very closely for the 2009-2010 year,” Burbage said. “We’re going to have some cuts.”

The county will likely continue the standstill of most capital projects.

“There’s not a whole lot of playing around with the numbers,” Burbage said. “This is what you’ve got.”