Forecast good for spending plan

Friday, August 5, 2011

Marshall County could have a budget passed by early September, according to deliberations in the Courthouse Annex on Tuesday night.

A public hearing on the county budget is to be held before the commission's regular meeting on Aug. 22. Then there has to be a gap of at least 10 days, before a special-called meeting of the commission on Sept. 6 to pass the budget.

"I don't think we're going to have trouble passing the budget," predicted former budget committee chairman Mickey King.

Well before the public hearing, the entire county budget will be printed in this newspaper, so that residents can consider it before the public hearing.

"It went fairly easy this year," King summed up.

The ease was possible because the education committee had no problems with the schools budget that was presented to them, and quickly voted to pass it on to the budget committee, who also approved it.

Members of both committees were pleased with the way the Board of Education had actually increased its fund balance.

"You did a great job of handling the money last year," said education committee chairman Rocky Bowden. "You wound up with more that you started with" in the fund balance.

Commissioner Sheldon Davis agreed.

"The fund balance is fine," Davis said. "That's what I was worried about."

Donnie Moses, chairman of the school board's budget committee, acknowledged they had help from an unforeseen source: the Jobs Bill.

"We were fortunate with the Jobs Bill money," Moses said. "We made a conscious effort to protect the fund balance.

"There were a couple places where we got more revenue than anticipated," Moses went on. "We will continue to pursue grants, and the new organizational chart gave some more help to that office."

Chairman Barry Spivey encouraged commissioners to make comments and ask questions.

King asked about non-recurring expenses, and Moses explained that $250,000 was budgeted for capital outlay, and $170,000 for non-recurring purchase of equipment.

King pointed out that capital outlay isn't going to go away.

"You're going to keep having some capital outlay," he said. "Next year it could be for something else."

"Absolutely yes," agreed Moses. "There will be capital outlay next year. You'd need a crystal ball to know how much to budget and for what."

This year, money will be spent on structural repairs at Forrest. In future years, school roofs and gym floors could be a priority.

Former commission chairman Sam Smith, now a school board member, explained that capital outlay can be called non-recurring, even though it's budgeted every year, because every year "it's different items."

Initially, King said he wanted more time to study the schools budget, but eventually he decided he was comfortable with the committee approving it and passing it on to the full commission, though he abstained in the vote.

Budget director Freda Terry had space reserved in this edition of the paper to publish the county budget, but decided to postpone it because she "had a formula problem" that she needed to solve.

"It would push me to find it, plus get all their (the schools') numbers in," Terry said.