County finds $290K in unexpected funds

Published 12:09 am Friday, August 3, 2012

NATCHEZ — As Adams County enters its final quarter for the fiscal year and County Administrator Joe Murray begins to draft a budget for next year, he has a new issue with which to deal— extra money.

The county has $290,000 in unexpected oil and gas severance and ad valorem taxes, as well as extra Title I forestry funds from the U.S. Forest Service.

In particular, the county has received $90,000 more in oil and gas severance taxes than expected for the current year.

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Likewise, $200,000 more in ad valorem taxes than expected were collected. Murray said those collections included back taxes owed on bankrupt properties and taxes that were owed from previous years.

The additional forestry funds may have come from three-year harvesting contracts that were left after Hurricane Gustav coming to an end in 2011, he said.

Murray said no one to whom he has spoken has been able to adequately explain why those revenues were higher than they were expected, but they will ultimately help the county’s year-end cash balance.

Other funds, such as approximately $600,000 in reimbursements the county will receive for its Government Fleet Road project, will also have to be considered, Murray said.

And in planning for next year’s budget, Murray said he’s going to assume that this year is a fluke.

“I try to be conservative on some of my receipts estimates when I am making a budget and not overestimate what we anticipate coming in, because it is better to underestimate, because that is what you base your expenses on,” he said. “If you overestimate you are going to be overexpended.”

In planning for revenues in the new budget, Murray said he will look at several recent years’ receipts to determine for what the county should plan.

“It would be nice to know we had an extra $100,000 we had in there, but that is not what history shows,” he said.

“You have to look at four and five years and get an average and kind of lowball it a little bit. I would much rather underestimate and have a little lagniappe than overestimate and have a deficiency.”

Murray said he doesn’t yet have a target amount for the county budget because the tax rolls for the coming year haven’t been finalized yet.

That will happen Monday, the last day for property owners to object to their assessed property value.

“If Monday goes by and there is no objections, I will get an updated (tax) roll and go in there to use those figures to get a solid idea of where my assessed values are,” Murray said.

The county administrator said he will have to meet with the heads of the county’s biggest departments — the maintenance, road and sheriff’s departments — before finalizing those budgets, and then everything will have to be approved by the board of supervisors.

Murray said the process of approving the budget with the supervisors will begin later this month.