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Posted: January 22, 2010 12:30 a.m.

County revenue down, depts. cut expenses

The county’s finances appear to be holding steady, according to the second quarter financial report discussed at Tuesday’s Board of Commissioner’s meeting.

The second quarter is one of the most crucial in terms of revenue, because that’s when the majority of property taxes are collected. This fiscal year Newton County collected $18.64 million, $300,000 less than last year, and $2.47 million less than budgeted.

So far this year 88.5 percent of property taxes have been collected, about the same as last year when 89 percent had been collected. Administrative Assistant John Middleton said Tax Commissioner Barbara Dingler was pleased with the collection rate.

To offset the reductions in revenue, the county has continued to cut from expenses.

So far this fiscal year the county has collected $23.39 million in total revenue and spent a total of $22.17 million. The expenditures are $1.83 million less than budgeted; Middleton credited the county’s department heads and constitutional officers for making good purchasing decisions.

"We feel like, in a nut shell, we’re holding our own and have been pleased with a few things," he said.

The county has budgeted $47.5 million in revenues for the whole year, including the $929,000 reduction that resulted from the Freeport exemption tax error earlier this year.

If the $23.4 million in revenue from the first half was doubled, the county would be $714,304 short of targeted revenues. That’s why expenses will need to continue to be cut. So far, all county departments have managed to spend less than 50 percent of their budget in the first half of the year.

Property tax collections are down as are local option sales taxes, but only slightly. Middleton said as of November, there’s a delay in collections, the county has collected about $50,000 less than budgeted.

Middleton said the county has 8,900 purchase invoices so far this year, and the average payables date is 23 days, which means the county is staying current on its payments.

Middleton said there is no single magic answer to staying with the budget, but he said the departments and constitutional officers are on the right path.

These quarterly financial reports were started in lieu of cutting the budget back in August, when the county found out it would be receiving $929,000 less in ad valorem taxes than originally expected.

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