Counties Initiate FY11 Budget Process
Counties across the Lone Star State are kicking off the next budget cycle with the development of budget instruction manuals and worksheets to distribute to department heads.
Gregg County is finalizing its budget calendar for distribution in April, said County Judge Bill Stoudt
“The biggest challenge this year is that values will be down considerably thus affecting our revenues,” Stoudt said. Regardless, the county will adhere to its budget philosophy: Gregg County does not spend more than it takes in. In addition, “the court is very focused on not spending reserves to balance a budget.”
Gregg County keeps its constituency informed on budgetary matters via a “very informative Web site that covers our entire budget from where the money comes from to where it is spent.” Stoudt continued. “Commissioners often refer the public to our site for better understanding.” In addition, the county hosts two work sessions for the public, inviting them to ask questions regarding the budget process.
Last year counties across the state shared their budget philosophies in their comprehensive budget reports, offering general explanations of the budget process along with detailed strategies.
The following includes a few individual snapshots from last year’s posted budget documents. If you’d like to share your county’s budget strategy, send it to Julie@countyprogress.com for publication in subsequent issues.
FY 2010 BUDGET OVERVIEW
The Adopted Budget for FY 2010 continues to hold to the established principles in Collin County of conservative fiscal planning and preparation for the future. Commissioners Court priorities with regard to the budget include producing a balanced budget while maintaining the tax rate at 0.2425 per $100 valuation for the citizens of Collin County through 2014 and continuing to utilize the Five Year Plan as a tool for budget preparation. The challenges faced by Collin County include the population increase in the county as Collin County is one of the fastest growing counties in the nation. Continued funding of programs mandated by the State of Texas and strains on the transportation and facility space as Collin County continues its rapid growth are other challenges the county faces. The Adopted Budget represents strategies that bring recurring expenditures in line with revenues while continuing to provide a high level of services to constituents.
The formal budget process begins in April with the formulation of the budget instruction manual. The manual includes the budget calendar for the year and serves as a guide to department officials in the budget process. Also included are detailed instructions for request submissions, required forms, and specific budgetary concerns for the year.
Budget requests are completed online and due by early May. Budget requests are reviewed by the budget office on an individual basis and analyzed in terms of input, output, outcomes, objectives, and historical trend.
Revenue estimates are received throughout the budget process from the county auditor. The revenue estimates provide the necessary parameters for evaluating budgetary requests. Meetings are conducted between the budget office and the department officials by appointment. A preliminary review packet is prepared combining the latest revenue estimates with the budget requests and program statistics for review by the commissioners court.
Budget workshops with the commissioners court may be held to discuss funding levels, requests, and policy issues. By early August, a preliminary budget proposal is prepared by the budget office and filed with the county clerk based on the instructions of the commissioners court. Public hearings are held prior to the adoption of the budget by commissioners court in late August or early September. The adopted budget is filed with the county clerk…
The adopted budget serves as a fiscal plan and legal appropriation for county spending. State law forbids overall spending above the amount specified in the adopted budget. Gregg County defines a balanced budget as one in which the total expenditures do not exceed the total resources or total estimated revenues plus reserves.
Excerpt from letter to the citizens of Houston County from County Judge Lonnie Hunt:
I am pleased to present to you the official budget of Houston County for the fiscal year beginning on October 1, 2009. This budget was adopted this date by the Commissioners Court. This 2009-2010 budget is based on our certified Appraisal Roll of $1,291,038.093. The tax rate required to fund this budget is 38.6 cents per $100 valuation – the same tax rate as last year. For the coming year, the proposed tax rate is apportioned as follows:
Maintenance and Operations (General Fund) 35.6 cents
Debt Service (Interest and Sinking Fund) 3.0 cents
Total Tax Rate 38.6 cents
In spite of decreased revenue this year from sales taxes and from fine and fee collections, Houston County continues to be in excellent financial condition. We recently received a very positive report from our outside auditor, and we continue to have an “A” rating from Standard and Poors. Because of our positive financial condition, we are once again able to keep the debt service tax rate low by paying a portion of our debt service out of the General Fund.
To ensure that our financial condition remains strong, the Commissioners Court has worked with all of your elected officials to produce a budget that is as “lean” as possible, while still providing adequate funding for important county services. For 2009-2010, General Fund expenditures (less the transfer for debt service) have been reduced by $526,739 compared to last year. This represents a decrease of almost 7.7 percent. This would not be possible without the cooperation and diligence of all your elected officials.
On behalf of the Commissioners Court and all elected officials, thank you for entrusting us as stewards of your tax dollars. It is a privilege and honor to serve you.
Respectfully submitted, Lonnie Hunt, County Judge
The purpose of the budget preparation process is to develop a work program and financial plan for Smith County. The goal is to produce a budget document that clearly states which services and functions will be provided with the resources available as follows: The budget document should be clearly understandable by the taxpayers and citizens at large and should be a policy document which defines issues in such a manner that the Commissioners Court can make sound business decisions regarding county programs and finances. The Commissioners Court must be given enough information to make funding choices between alternative programs and priorities. The budget document should provide offices and departments with a work program enabling them to carry out their missions.
Furthermore, it provides the County Judge, who is the budget officer, and the County Auditor with a financial plan with which to assure the county lives within its financial means.
We are pleased to present the Travis County Adopted Budget for Fiscal Year 2010. This document is submitted in accordance with all statutory requirements.
Travis County, like most governmental agencies, has felt the effects of the recent economic downturn. Economic forecasts show that we will remain in a recessionary period through calendar year 2010 which has impacted the county budget for FY10 and may continue to do so past 2011. The FY10 Adopted Budget was developed with three goals in mind:
1) minimize the service-level impact of the economic downturn to the citizens of Travis County;
2) seek efficiencies in our current programs to maximize the resources available; and
3) preserve our most valued resource, our employees, through the avoidance of layoffs. These goals, along with a desire to maintain healthy reserves at a level consistent with financial policies, result in a FY10 Adopted Budget which contains adequate resources and prepares us for what is anticipated to be a more challenging FY11 budget.