Scotland County’s commissioners will prepare to plan next year’s budget during an early morning cram session today that is set to include a presentation of the school system’s budget and capital requests.
“(Today) will be an informational process primarily, with the school system formally presenting their budget and the commissioners receiving a budget forecast to give them a better idea of we expect to end up (financially),” said County Manager Kevin Patterson, who along with Finance Officer Charles Nichols will direct the 8 a.m. work session.
Likely to take several hours, the meeting’s agenda includes a projection of revenue and expenditures for the current financial year as well as a presentation of projections for the upcoming year.
Patterson projected in February that the county would be running a $160,000 surplus at the end of the current financial year, which concludes in June.
“I think we are looking at that number having actually gone up,” Patterson said, adding that his initial estimate was conservative.
Board Chairman Guy McCook credits the surplus and the fact that the county is in a better financial position as it enters budget planning than it has been in years past to the deep cuts that have been made.
“We are in a little better spot because of the cuts we have made and because we have been conservative in our revenue estimates. The fact that we have been very careful has helped us, but we still need to improve and add to the fund balance,” McCook said.
According to McCook, today’s meeting will mostly serve to educate the commissioners so that they can make informed decisions during upcoming budget meetings.
“We are just hoping to get as much information as possible about each department’s budget and an idea of what their requests look like.
“We also want to hear from the schools even though we don’t really get to make a decision about their operating budget, we will have to make a decision on the capital side.”
Schools Finance Officer Jay Toland is expected to be accompanied by Superintendent Rick Stout in presenting the system’s budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year.
Occasionally a point of contention, the school system’s capital requests are set to include both funding for enhanced security walls for local schools and for roof repairs.
Based on this week’s school board meeting, the school system’s capital requests have increased since they were presented to the county’s finance team in a preliminary form earlier this month.
As the commissioners begin to consider next year’s budget, McCook said that they will have the goal of restoring employee pay to where it was prior to the cuts that were made two years ago.
“As a group we want to try to take care of our employees. They are the core of what are county services are about … and we can’t deliver on any of our services without them,” McCook said.
Maintaining services at their current level is another priority, Patterson said, especially in light of expected federal and state revenue cuts.
“We know there are going to be state and federal government reductions in revenue, so our goal will be not to reduce services.”
The commissioners also plan to invest in their own buildings, which have suffered from tight budgeting as well.
“Right now we have some very old buildings that we have underfunded. They are going to create more and more liabilities going forward, so a goal will be to put more into prevention and repair, which will save in the long run,” Patterson said.