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Commission ties up on balancing budget, tables vote pending more information

Perry County Commission moved one step closer towards closing the books on the 2021-2022 fiscal year at its first meeting of the month, held Tuesday night, Sept. 13. Commission Chairman Albert

Turner said the county was “in better shape than we have been in years.” Turner asked commissioners to vote to amend the budget to reflect that certain budgeted expenditures had gone over budget in the past year. He was quick to point out that, though that may have been the case, revenues collected by the county also exceeded the budget projections for the year.

He asked commissioners for a vote to amend the 2021-22 budget so that the line items would balance at the close out of the year.

Commissioner Brett Harrison made a motion which, following some back and forth, was seconded by Commissioner Tony Long. Harrison asked why the county would need to amend its budget for a fiscal year that had almost passed. Turner said the commission had to close the books with a balanced budget so that it would enter the next fiscal year with a balanced budget, as well.

“In the past nobody reconciled accounts and made sure that we had line items that were balanced and made sure that we had money in the county budget to address line items,” Turner said.

Harrison said he wanted to withdraw his motion pending more information being provided to commissioners before the vote. He asked Turner what revenues were up over the projected budgeted amount last year.

“We had $315,000.00 in the budget for the landfill,” said Turner, “and we received over $500,000.00. Then you had the proceeds from the sale of the hotel, which washed out,” he said, meaning the funds went to cancel out debt the county still held on the property.

“We had income from things that we normally paid from the General Fund that grant money was used for, so we had that surplus as well.”

Turner said that, in spite of the excess revenues the county enjoyed over the past year, the coming year’s budget would remain conservative.

“Next year, we’re not going to budget but X number of dollars of revenue so you can keep your items in your budget in line,” he said. “This is giving us a picture of what is spent in this county, instead of pass a budget and go through and spend and hope. You can plan your spending.”

“You said the same thing last year,” said Commission Cedric Hudson.

“Last year we didn’t exceed our budget,” Turner said.

Turner said commissioners would be voting on the budget for the upcoming fiscal year at their next meeting. “You will know that these numbers are going to be real. That’s something we’ve been cited for on our audits in years past. Now they are reconciled. We can make better decisions.”

“What’s that got to do with what we’re talking about right now?” said Hudson. “You went into a tirade about budgets.”

“We cant give you a beginning balance with negative accounts,” Turner said. “So, for us to give you a correct beginning balance of the fund account, we have to balance the budget that we passed, and that’s what we’re asking tonight is to make those changes, then we can go forward.”

“When we passed the budget we only had five deputies, now we have nine,” Turner said, noting another item on which the projected budget differed from the county’s actual revenues and expenditures. “Even though we only appropriated for 5-6 deputies, we got money from the state,” he said.

Turner said that more money had come in than had gone out.

“We didn’t have to borrow payroll, thank God. We didn’t have to lay anyone off, thank God. We’re probably in the best position, in my 20 years, that we’ve been in.”

In light of Harrison’s withdrawn motion, Turner made the motion himself that the county amend the 2021-22 budget that night. He then passed the gavel to Harrison. Long offered a second.

Hudson made a substitute motion to table the issue until the commission’s next meeting, asking that commissioners be provided more detailed information on the changes in the meantime. Eaton seconded. Harrison called for a vote on Hudson’s motion, as substitute motions must be acted on before the motion for which they were offered as a substitute. That motion carried.

“You’re going to require us to have an emergency meeting,” Turner said, in order to finalize the budget before the close of the fiscal year. “I need each of you to look on your calendar and you can find a date so we can amend the budget before the end of the fiscal year. All that information is in the [commission] office.”

Hudson asked what recourse commissioners would have “If, for some reason, the information is not provided.”

“That’s why every budget you ever passed was late,” said Turner.

“My last budget had a surplus,” said Hudson.

Commissioners did, ultimately, vote to amend two items that night: the Gas Tax Fund, which went over its budgeted expenditures by $303.00, and Civil Defense, which had exceeded its budgeted expenditures by $14,000.00. Both of those amendments to the budget were carried by unanimous voice vote.

At Turner’s recommendation, Commissioners also voted to add $15,000 per month in the coming fiscal year to its payment on the county’s 2007 General Obligation Warrant. Turner said that additional payment would allow the county to retire that debt in the coming year. He said the county would also be on track to retire a 2021 General Obligation Warrant in the amount of $800,000.00 in the new fiscal year, as well as $67,100.00 in debt from a USDA rural development loan. The motion to retire those debts in the new budget carried unanimously.