Crunching the numbers for the upcoming budget

Published 9:28 pm Friday, August 14, 2009

Putting together a budget for a city or county is a daunting task. Much of the revenues are dependent upon taxes, which fluctuate throughout the year. Unexpected expenditures arise much more frequently than unexpected windfalls, and there is no telling how good or bad the economy will be 10 months from now.

For Demopolis mayor Mike Grayson, this is his budget is his first to put together. He and Demopolis City Council members Thomas Moore and Jack Cooley form the council’s finance committee, which puts together the annual budget.

“Jack Cooley was on the finance committee for the last four years, so he’s offering some good advice,” Grayson said. “Thomas Moore’s background being with the State of Alabama revenue department as an examiner or auditor — he is certainly comfortable with dealing with numbers.”

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Grayson said the process that is mandated by the state is to establish a revenue stream from all venues, including taxes, revenues from the state and all other sources of income. The process then calls on the city to spend 90 percent of that total, putting 10 percent in reserve.

“Then, all the department heads and certain organizations then get their share,” he said.

Grayson said the process has begun already for the 2009-10 fiscal year, having gotten the revenue stream totaled and budget requests from the department heads and institutions.

“It’s going to be a budget that is going to be like we have right now, maybe a little bit less because we’re looking at possibly another 1-percent reduction in the revenue stream,” he said. “Our thought is that it is better to be conservative as opposed to being wide open and free-wheeling and then getting the department heads to slash their budgets again.”

In Linden, the city prepres its budget based on the previous year’s numbers.

“When we get to the end of June, I see where everything is,” said Linden city administrator Cheryl Hall. “I’ll take June’s numbers and I will divide it by nine (to get the per-month figures) and multiply it by 12 (to get a full year’s expenditures based on those averages) to see where we’re actually going to end up. Then, I compare where we are to how we’ve done the prior year.

For the Marengo County Commission, secretary Meredith Hammond puts the budget together for approval by the commission.

“Meredith compiles the figures, and then, we get estimates on the revenue coming in from (revenue commissioner) Bo McAlpine and (probate judge) Cindy Neilson,” said commission chair Jerry Loftin. “Then, we take the history of last year with the sales tax, and the economy. I believe it’s running about 6 percent under from last year.

“Meredith sends all of the department heads a sheet showing what their budget was for this year, and if they request any changes or modifications.”

All three entities planned to have the budget finalized and ready for approval at their last meetings of September.