Friday, March 12, 2004

Butler faces budget cut as soon as next month

Expenses up, revenues short just 10 weeks into year

By John Kiesewetter
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HAMILTON - Ten weeks into the new year, Butler County commissioners are contemplating a 1 or 2 percent across-the-board budget cut for all departments and office holders.

County sales tax revenues are $70,000 below the first two months of last year, said Tim Williams, assistant county administrator and finance director.

Because the county's $75 million annual budget is based on an 8 percent increase in sales tax receipts, the county is on pace to fall $290,000 short of anticipated revenues, he said. At the same time, expenses are higher than the amount spent the first two months last year, he said.

The county also could be short about $1 million in Recorder's Office fees for deed recordings and other services, based on reports so far, he said.

Thursday's budget session prompted commissioners to talk about asking all county officeholders to trim spending next month.

"You're better off cutting earlier than later. You can always go back and loosen up," said Commissioner Michael A. Fox.

County Administrator Derek Conklin suggested that all county officeholders be summoned to a budget presentation early next month, after March sales tax income is known. Sales tax revenues from December holiday season purchases are reported in March, Conklin said.

"By then, we'll be able to pin down a figure" for budget cuts, Conklin said.

Williams did a similar budget presentation for county officials two years ago, as they were preparing their 2003 budgets. County commissioners allocate financial resources to the elected county officials, who independently set their operating policies and procedures.

"We seem to have the trust of all the officeholders, and a good working relationship with them. It's important that we maintain that," said Chuck Furmon, commission president.


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