Adams County spends more than budgeted

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 14, 2009

NATCHEZ — Adams County spent $2.1 million more in the 2008-2009 fiscal year than it had budgeted.

The original budget approved by Sept. 15, 2008, included $27,432,773 in expenditures.

“What we base our initial budget on is what we do in the prior year,” County Administrator Cathy Walker said.

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“It’s hard to predict. We just have to take an estimate of what our cost wound up being over the last few years,” she said.

Walker said a number of factors can influence the budget including unplanned projects and natural disasters.

The county over-stepped its budget in the areas of public works, health and welfare, conservation of natural resources, economic development and assistance and other financing uses.

In 2008-2009, public works projects overtaxed its $5,341,826 beginning budget by providing funding for EWP conservation projects, roadwork on Government Fleet and Morgantown roads and Hurricane Gustav cleanup efforts.

Public works finished the fiscal year spending $7,070,307.

“That was $1 million that we didn’t budget for,” Walker said.

The county’s health and welfare expenditures fluctuate from year-to-year depending on healthcare costs and employee health, Walker said.

“We are self-funded as far as insurance, and we always have to guess based on how many employees we have as to how much money we’re going to have to pay out,” Walker said.

Initially, the county set aside $1,418,063 for its ’08-’09 budget, but the amended budget shows $2,285,921 being spent in health and welfare costs.

“This year, it was $885,000 more than what we estimated that we’d have to pay out,” Walker said.

In the areas of conservation of natural resources and economic development and assistance, the county went over budget by approximately $180,000.

Walker said conservation funding went toward other EWP projects such as stopping erosion at houses and working on other soil projects.

“They are doing some stabilization on the banks of St. Catherine Creek,” Walker said.

Walker said the board agreed to help with the project in early 2009.

The stipulations of the agreement stated the county would help with maintaining the creek if rainfall exceeded approximately four inches during a storm.

Walker said the probability of receiving more than four inches of rain was slim to none at the time of the agreement but within a month, the rain came and the bottom dropped out of the budgeted line.

More than $1 million was spent on other financing uses.

This includes the county’s purchase of a crane for the Natchez-Adams County Port, other machinery or vehicles approved for county departments and roadwork.

Walker said while it’s not unusual for a county’s budget to be off by approximately $1 million, $2 million in overspending is a bit more than normal.

“This year, I think there were just several big projects that were taken on that caused us to be that much different,” Walker said.

Supervisor Darryl Grennell said the he believed the reason the county overspent its budget was a matter of not supplying the budget with enough cushioning for last-minute projects and disaster relief.

“This is the first time since I’ve been in office that we’ve gone over budget by $2 million,” Grennell said.

“Normally, for the many years we’ve always had significant end-of-the-year cash balances to carry over into the next year.

“But when you adopt a bare-boned budget, it causes this type of scenario,” Grennell said.

Attempts to reach board president Henry Watts for comment were unsuccessful.