Davis: County’s in good shape

NEW CUMBERLAND — After a two-week recess, Hancock County Commissioners returned to regular session Monday to discussed the county’s general budget.

Commissioners approved the budget for fiscal year 2017-18, which consists of revenues in its general fund totaling $9,882,963, and coal severance tax revenues of $20,000, with $9,882,963 of budgeted expenditures in the general fund and also $20,000 in coal severance tax expenses.

Based on information provided, the breakdown of the general fund’s budgeted revenues — coming from 11 total funds — consist of a beginning balance, starting July 1, of $1.3 million followed by taxes coming to $4,920,258; miscellaneous funds at $2,307,600; and other taxes amounting to $283,000. Other revenues in the general fund included intergovernmental funds ($456,975), charges for services ($416,180), fines ($5,800), regional jail operation partial reimbursement ($36,000), interest ($1,000), transfers ($156,000) and licenses and permits ($150).

As for its coal severance tax, the $20,000 of budgeted revenues consisted of its starting balance — also as of July 1 — of $5,000 and $15,000 from other taxes.

In terms of expenditures, the commission showed five of the seven funds with a dollar value. Those included general government expenditures ($4,333,629), public safety expenditures ($5,167,459), health and sanitation expenditures ($59,375), culture and recreation expenditures ($226,000), and social services expenditures ($96,500). No dollar amounts were listed for transfers and capital projects expenditures.

All $20,000 of budgeted expenditures for the coal severance tax comes from the general government expenditures fund.

In a comparison from the FY16-17 budget, which showed both general fund revenues and expenses to be $11,128,029 and revenues and expenses from the coal severance tax each at $27,765, finance administrator Karen LaScola stated the 2016-17 budget was a little more inflated due to additional funding that went to the county’s 911 center, which was used to cover employees salaries.

“It looks higher than it really is because general county (fund) was funding the 911 center’s salaries last year because of the deficit there, and that money is being paid back to the general county,” LaScola said.

Commissioner Jeff Davis also provided an explanation into the increased funding, noting the county was only receiving $2.05 per landline and ultimately doubled the amount.

“The reason that the county was funding the 911 center was because we were only receiving $2.05 for every landline, and after we had the increase to $4.10 generating additional revenue, we were able to pay that back to try to get on some track,” he said. “There’s still a little more to be paid back. We’re not done yet.”

Bob Vidas, executive director of the county’s office of technology and communications, also provided statistics, noting with the amount of calls the 911 center was receiving, additional staff and increase in price of landlines was necessary.

“In 2016, 20,502 incidents were created through our 911 center, that’s about three-and-a-quarter per hour,” Vidas said. “For those incidents, 438,872 phone calls or radio calls were answered, which were about 50 per hour, which kind of gives you an idea why we need three dispatchers on a normal basis and why we had to increase the cost from $2.05 to $4.10 to pay for the coverage the county actually gets from our dispatch center.”

In reference to the budget itself, Davis expressed comfort in the budget and offered gratitude to county officials for being able to work within their budgets the past year and being able to work together.

“Overall, the county’s in good shape,” Davis said. “We’re pretty fortunate that we’ve been able to maintain, and I would like to applaud our county officials because each one of them does a pretty good job of staying within their budget and it helps us out not only for the year that we’re working, but going forward the following year, and I think it’s critical.

“We could look and read all the articles in the paper and see where folks have a lot of issues, and a lot of times, these issues are brought up because of folks not working together. It’s been a nice year and going forward, it looks like we’re going to be pretty good in 2017 and 2018.”

Commissioner Joe Barnabei also mentioned the budget could still be revised, and that revisions could be submitted until the middle of July.