Wood County balance less than projected

PARKERSBURG – Wood County’s year-end balance came back $218,920 less than the projected $950,000.

County Clerk Jamie Six shared news of the shortfall Thursday with county commissioners.

The commissioners plan to cover the shortfall by taking money out of the contingencies fund, and officials said they anticipate signing that budget revision Monday. Revisions need to be in by July 31. The county’s budget year runs from July 1 to June 30.

Six explained, with the government’s accounting system, payables are recognized, while receivables are not, and there are a number of outstanding purchase orders. “If something is due and payable by June 30, the money must come out of this year’s budget,” the clerk said.

The commission projected the ending balance at $950,000 when they set the budget back in the spring. The ending balance actually came in at $731,000, leaving the $218,920 to cover.

“It’s not that expenditures exceeded the budget, it’s that the projected revenues did not come in,” deputy clerk Mark Rhodes noted.

“The two alternative sentencing programs, Day Report Center and Home Confinement programs have about $152,958 they need to reimburse the county, which actually leaves the shortage at $65,962,” Six said. “We still have until the end of the month to decide on adjustments,”

Officials noted a large portion of the money still owed is the result of outstanding client fees, and some clients have their fees waived by the courts for those determined to be indigent, but the clients still participate so that expense is still incurred by that program.

“I want to note that without these two programs the county’s regional jail bill would be higher. The regional jail bill last fiscal year was actually a total of $100,000 less than the previous year,” Six said.

The county has $1.3 million in its rainy day fund, but county officials said they were hesitant to take funds from that source to cover the shortage in the ending balance.

“You just need to cover it by the end of the month. You can either take the revenue out of another source to cover it, or reduce some expenditures in the budget to cover it, and some of those outstanding purchase orders may be canceled,” Six told the commissioners. “But you must maintain a balanced budget.”

“We predicted it would be a tight fiscal year and it has been. You just hold your breathe, but I have to say I didn’t expect this,” Commissioner Blair Couch said.

“There are a lot of unknowns and a lot things you just can’t control,” Six said.

“We are still well within the 3 percent allowed by law,” Commissioner Steve Gainer said. The county’s total budget is $20,153,719 budget for 2013-2014.

“I do not want to pull money out of the rainy day fund if we don’t have to,” Couch said.

“The rainy day is placed to answer a situation like this,” commission President Wayne Dunn said. “But we need to have an adequate rainy day fund. This is less than pleasant, but it’s real.”

The contingencies fund has about $300,000 in it.

“The carryover has been dropping every year for the last few years,” Dunn said.

As for discussion of proposed employee pay hikes, Dunn said he wants to see a comparison of county salaries with “other entities.”

” I don’t want us to fall behind. We want to keep good people,” Dunn said.

“I think we need to finalize this budget before we discuss any pay raises. We need to look over previous years’ budgets and see if there are trends, but there’s no money in next year’s budget for a pay raise,” Couch said. “Rainy day is not made for pay raises.”

County officials noted there has been some increase in construction, both commercial and residential, but the tax revenue from that construction won’t be available until the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

The commissioners said they would discuss county finances on Monday, including signing off to transfer funds to cover the ending balance shortfall but would probably delay discussion of outside agency requests for funds and any pay hikes for a couple of weeks.

“We have a lot of organizations that count on help from the county commission and they become less viable without that help. It’s going to hurt a lot of people if we don’t help them,” Dunn said of the outside agency funding requests.

Last year the commissions distributed more than $120,000 in funding to area groups and organizations and another $50,000-$65,000 in employee benefits. The commissioners received more than 20 funding requests from county officials, community agencies and projects for more than $400,000 from the ending balance last year at this time.