County releases first quarter 2009 financial numbers: Revenues down slightly, expenditures up over 2008 first quarter

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By AJ Vicens

Jefferson County's general fund maintained a healthy balance in the first quarter of 2009, but it reflects some of the country's economic woes when compared with the first three months of 2008, according to a recent presentation by the county's top budget official.

The county's general fund is doing fine, even though revenues are down or flat and expenditures are up, County Administration and Services Director Todd Leopold told county commissioners May 19.

On the revenue side, license and permit collections were down more than 29 percent in the first three months of 2009 compared with the same time period in 2008. Money collected for vehicle ownership taxes was down roughly 11 percent.

Total revenues for Jan. 1, 2009, through March 31, 2009, were a little more than $57 million, down about 1 percent from the same period in 2008.

"Overall, because counties are so property-tax heavy, we see fluctuations year to year," Leopold said in an interview. "Cities are different in that they see fluctuations because of sales taxes month to month."

Meanwhile, the amount of money the county spent from the general fund went up. The county spent $22.4 million on salaries and benefits during the first quarter of 2009, up nearly 4 percent from the year before. Leopold said the increase could be related to more departments doing employee evaluations earlier in 2009 than they did in 2008, which means employees are getting raises earlier in the year.

"The (full-year) budget is still projecting an average 3 percent increase in salary and benefits across the organization," Leopold said. "A truer comparison over 2008 should be clearer by the end of the second quarter in July."

Expenditures overall climbed nearly 3 percent, finishing the quarter at $37.9 million. Specifically, a 6.6 percent jump was seen in expenditures on supplies. The county spent $1.08 million on supplies in the first quarter of 2009.

The general fund balance was at $19 million at the end of March, down 9 percent from 2008's March 31 general fund balance of $20.8 million.

"Overall, I think we've put ourselves in a good position to maintain where we are," Leopold said. "We need to watch where the issues are coming up, and we'll have a much better projection at the end of the second quarter into the third as to where we'll be at the end of the year."

Commissioner Kevin McCasky agreed.

"Generally, I think we're in decent shape," McCasky said. "That's a comparative statement relative to many other parts of the U.S. We're in decent shape. Could it be better? Of course it could be. However, we will manage our budget appropriately given the economic conditions we find in this county."

McCasky added that the financial data from the first and second quarters of 2009 will be used to budget for 2010, and adjustments will be made to keep everything in line.

"We have some time to make adjustments," McCasky said. "We will carry out our operation, and deliver our services in the best manner possible and not exceed our revenues."

Contact AJ Vicens at aj@evergreenco.com, and check www.columbinecourier.com for updates and breaking news.