Pike County Board adopts balanced budget, draws down reserves

Posted: Nov. 27, 2012 11:09 pm Updated: Dec. 19, 2012 8:15 am

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

PITTSFIELD, Ill. -- The Pike County Board will draw down reserves to balance the budget for the year beginning Dec. 1.

Board members Tuesday adopted a budget calling for revenues of $4,449,288 and expenditures of $4,449,047 in the county's general fund.

The revenue side includes reserve funds earmarked to plug "about a $250,000 hole in the boat," Finance Committee Chairman Walker Filbert said.

"Last year we had about a $50,000 surplus. This year we ended up with a deficit of about $250,000 in round numbers," he said. "We have some extra monies in some other funds that we have tentatively earmarked as a means of plugging that gap if it indeed materializes."

The board took a close look at expenses, even asking county office holders to "do everything possible" to find a 10 percent reduction in their budgets, Filbert said, but the board still came up short in the budget.

Even so, "the county is in very good shape financially right now," Filbert said. "We want to keep it that way."

A new contract with the landfill will bring in more revenue, and so will fees in the county clerk and circuit clerk offices.

"Land sales have been very brisk in Pike County," Filbert said. "The more activity we get from that, the more fees we generate."

But Filbert said there are storm clouds brewing on the revenue side of the budget.

One targets the share of the state income tax given to counties.

A temporary boost in the state income tax dropped the county's share but maintained the same amount of dollars, but when the income tax reverts, the county's share won't go back up, costing counties about a third of that revenue.

"We collect right around $500,000 a year from that. Take away a third of that, and it's a pretty sizeable chunk of our revenue that goes into the general fund," Filbert said.

At the same time, sheriff's department fees, primarily federal funds for housing prisoners in the county jail, also dropped, while health insurance costs continue to grow.

Salaries also remain a question mark in the new budget with three union contracts not finalized.

The budget estimates raises for employees, "but the actual numbers they end up agreeing to might be a little higher than budgeted," Filbert said. "It could be problematic."

The county's equalized assessed value went up about 2.1 percent, while the tax levy increased by 2.03 percent, which means a modest decrease in taxes for county residents.

Some costs, though, continue to increase.

"One of the critical areas that we're going to have to keep an eye on, just like everybody else, involves liability insurance and retirement," Filbert said.

The budget also earmarks $100,000 for courthouse work.

"We estimated that the courthouse is in need of about roughly $400,000 of work between a new roof, storm windows, sealant on all the stonework and a new boiler," he said. "We were really hoping we could have found some funds to do it all at once because when you've got an old building like that, the more you defer maintenance, the more it will cost you in the long run."

With the budget shortfall, the board opted instead to allocate $100,000 a year over the next four years until all that maintenance work is done. "Then the courthouse will be good to go for 30 years at least," Filbert said.