Fiscal year goals summarized

By Kathy Helms-Hughes

   Supervisors of some Carter County offices supported by revenue from the General Fund attended the third in a series of budget workshops Monday night at the Carter County Courthouse. But before making their budget requests, they were given a preview of what they were up against in the new fiscal year.
   County Finance Director Jason Cody said most of the revenue for the General Fund comes primarily from property taxes. However, funds are also generated by local option sales taxes, miscellaneous fees, revenue from prisons, cable TV franchise fees, as well as numerous smaller fees.
   In setting the budget for Fiscal Year 2003-2004, the county has been working under the premise that there will be a 9 percent state-shared revenue cut. The bottom line based on that assumption, he said, is that revenue will decrease $104,452 from the more than $8 million the county had to work with in the current fiscal year.
   "We're looking at an impact of roughly about $100,000 less for the General Fund," he said. Of that amount, approximately $60,000 is based on state-shared revenue and roughly $40,000 from adjustments.
   Cody said he has taken a fairly conservative approach on the revenue side. "You always want to overestimate your expenses and underestimate your revenues. There are some revenue items that I did notice, based on the actual fiscal year, that we aren't going to achieve," he said.
   In Fiscal Year 2003-2004, he is expecting an increase of little more than 2 percent in property tax revenue, which makes up the majority of the General Fund. "We are assuming the same property tax rate of $2.22. You're looking at an increase from $3.171 million in the current year's budget to $3.25 million."
   Cody said he did not forecast an increase in the next major revenue item, the local option sales tax. "It's $670,000, and is consistent with where we're estimating the current fiscal year, 2002-2003.
   "I think we're going to come in pretty close to that. I felt like it would be very difficult to estimate an increase at this point. At the most, I figure it would be one percent, but I would rather keep it flat right now based on economic conditions," he said.
   The county is expecting to pick up $10,000 in additional revenue from the cable TV franchise fee. "In our current budget we're estimating $260,000. I did increase that up to $270,000 based on where it is actually coming in. In our current year we're actually going to collect a little bit more."
   Cody said he anticipated receiving the same amount of revenue from the contracted prisoner board as in the current fiscal year -- $375,000.
   "We're going to come in pretty close to that estimate, maybe a little bit over, but not a whole lot. I think it's roughly $29 a day the state reimburses for housing prisoners. Some people say you can make money housing prisoners. I'm not certain you can. ... It's difficult to say, especially in light of the kind of destruction and damages they sometimes cause," he said.
   Cody said business tax revenue for the current fiscal year was estimated at $260,000, but is probably going to come in a little lower. For 2003-04, he is estimating that revenue at $250,000.
   The county should come in fairly close to the $215,000 predicted this year from wholesale beer tax, he said, "so I'm going to hold that constant."
   He also said revenue from the county clerk's office might come in a little under the $365,000 forecast for this budget year. "I'm going to basically make sure that we are conservative in our estimates and go with $350,000 next year," he said.
   Next week, the budget committee is expected to hear budget request presentations from the Carter County Sheriff's Department and the Elizabethton/Carter County Landfill.
   Chief Deputy James Parrish, who is away on active military duty, will be coming in especially to make the presentation.