None of the $5 million in excess unassigned fund balance will be used to balance county budget

The county budget reportedly has roughly $5 million in excess in the unassigned fund balance for the upcoming fiscal year, but even with the overall budget increase across every department and the lack of a tax increase for the 2019/2020 fiscal year, Finance Director Brad Burke said his department’s work improved the county’s efficiency so much that none of the budget increases across the county required that $5 million in order to balance.

“As far as we project, nothing is coming from that $5 million,” Burke said.

Every department in the county submitted budget increases, from as low as roughly $33,000 from the Drug Control Fund to the Highway Department’s $1.4 million. Even Burke was surprised when he first got the results back from his calculations.

“I did not believe it at first,” he said.

This overall efficiency boost, he said, comes from many different places, many of which he and his department uncovered when he began the process.

“Officeholders are being very frugal,” Burke said.

He said these recalculations come from a better understanding of what revenues are actually coming in, rather than using last year’s estimates as a starting point.

“I believe these amounts are more realistic,” he said. “They are more based on what revenues are actually coming in.”

The news comes after a breakthrough in last year’s budget, where a proposed tax increase of more than 10 percent disappeared when the commission used money from debt services to balance the budget. This year’s recalculations represent another effort of the budget committee to make sure each department is accurately reporting their expenses and revenues.

“The monies were there. They just were not budgeted,” Burke said.

The overall Carter County budget trends towards assuming less revenue than the actual number while simultaneously trending towards larger expenses than the actual number, and this discrepancy adds up over time.

When Burke looked through these numbers with a fresh perspective, he said he was able to bring the numbers closer in line, resulting in eliminating the need for a tax increase for the upcoming year.

“Once the budget is approved, a full copy of the budget will be available on the [Carter County] website,” Burke said.

Burke said he is always eager to answer questions about the budget to anyone who asks, as he said it encourages both the questioner and himself to think about problems in new ways.

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