County budget in good shape

MINDEN - Douglas County leaders will review a mostly balanced budget of nearly $82 million during a special meeting Thursday.

Unlike past years, when annual budget hearings were sometimes accompanied by deficits of several hundred thousand dollars, the big drama in the 2000-01 fiscal year appears to be how to divvy $81,000 in general fund grant money among 11 community groups that are asking for a combined $163,000, said County Manager Dan Holler.

"Things look good," he said. "Basically, the budgets are balanced and we don't have any shortfalls this year. The departments did a good job of holding the line."

Budgets for the county, its redevelopment agency and the East Fork Fire and Paramedic districts total $81.7 million, up from the current year's $80.6 million. The county portion is $73.7 million, which includes a general fund operating budget of $22.7 million and reserves of $3.6 million.

The general fund pays for personnel, public safety and other necessities. The county tries to keep one month's worth of operating expenses in savings and a contingency fund of 3 percent of the general fund, or about $650,000.

"We haven't had any major catastrophes," Holler noted. "From a staff level, it's been a very pleasant year."

The 1999-2000 fiscal year's overall county budget was $69.4 million and the general fund and reserves totalled $24.85 million, Holler said.

"It's up a little bit, and that's primarily driven by inflation and personnel costs," Holler said. "We had a very good year. We're doing well in terms of revenues coming in at or above the budget, and our expenditures are in line."

Even so, the ledgers aren't showing any significant surpluses and county administrators haven't sought major increases. Holler said the senior services budget will be hiked by about $75,000 that will go toward increased hours for van drivers, homemakers and food service.

The hearings will include pitches for varying amounts of money by 11 groups that promote causes ranging from tree planting to economic development.

"We definitely have more requests than we have money," Holler noted. "The hard part is you have very worthy programs, it's just a matter of where to allocate it."

The budget hearing will start at 1 p.m. Thursday in the old courthouse, 1616 Eighth St., Minden. The grant funding is scheduled for discussion around 5:30 p.m., followed by the general fund.


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