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Friday, November 30, 2012 8:20 PM

Officials plan amendments to close budget authority gaps

By CRYSTAL HERBER, Herald Staff Writer

The county’s budget is set to be republished after a routine examination revealed a gap in budget authority.

A year-end review of Franklin County’s 2012 operating budget — performed every year to ensure the county does not incur budget violations — showed three amendments were necessary. The three areas of the operating budget that require amendments are the bond and interest budget, the health department budget and county-wide phone fund. The Franklin County Board of Commissioners voted 4-0 in favor of scheduling a public hearing on the amendments to the budget for 8:30 a.m. Dec. 12 in commission chambers, 1428 S. Main St., Ottawa.

The proposed amendments will not raise or lower taxes for residents, Lisa Johnson, county administrator and counselor, said.

“None of these changes taxes,” she said. “We can’t change the amount of taxes levied. It just changes budget authority, so that we don’t have cash basis violations because we can not spend more than we budgeted in the expenditures. It will bring the budget authority up to cover the expenditures for the year.”

A budget authority does not mean the county will spend an allotted amount of money, but has the authority to do so if necessary, she said.

A shortage in cash carry-over, as well as a mathematical error, led to the amendments in the bond and interest budget, Johnson said. The amount budgeted was not enough to cover the debt service payments, she said, warranting a transfer from the county’s general fund capital outlay.

“It was just short what it needed to be to make the payments, so we are amending the budget to reflect an additional $7,000 in expenditures. We did not carry over $30,000 in cash that we thought we were going to,” Johnson explained. “And then with the shortage and what we budgeted for expenditures, we just didn’t have enough cash in the budget. So there was $50,000 transferred from general fund capital outlay to bond and interest to make sure we had enough cash in the budget.”

The board was informed of the transfer before it was complete, Johnson said, although it was not discussed in an open meeting. To cover the expenditures, it is necessary to amend the county’s budget authority from $1.1 million to $1.11 million to avoid a violation of the budget authority of this fund, she said.

The second proposed amendment is in the health department budget. Because of staffing shortages, a need to contract health services to meet clinical needs and the increased demand and cost for vaccines over the past year, the department might exceed the adopted budget authority in the 2012 operating budget, Johnson said. The department has generated additional revenue to cover the expenditures, Johnson said, but the budget authority currently is not in place to cover the expenditures.

“So what we’ve done here is they’re proposing to increase the projected expenditures in the event that Midge [Ransom, the department’s director] has to go over to buy vaccine this year,” Johnson told the county board.

 An additional $44,187 of budget authority is being proposed for the health department budget. The excess money at the end of the year will be put into a reserve fund, which will be used in the future to buy software for an electronic medical records system, Johnson said.

The final amendment is to the county-wide phone fund, which is generated from user fees for the county office phone users. The fees are used for operating costs, maintenance and future capital reserve for the system, Johnson said. The board approved the replacement of the phone system this year with those reserves, but the replacement cost was not budgeted for the 2012 expenditures for the fund.

“We inadvertently failed to include the budget authority to spend the cash,” Johnson said. “So what this amendment would do is actually provide the budget authority so that we don’t have a budget law violation for having spent that money for the projected cost.”

The proposed amended 2012 expenditures for the three amendments would increase the county’s budget authority from $2,020,240 to $2.276 million. The amendments to the budget must be finalized before Dec. 31, according to state statute.

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