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County finishes year under budget

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Hasn't used reserves in nearly a decade

By Amber Coulter

The Hardin County government finished the past fiscal under budget, Judge-Executive Harry Berry said Friday.

The county ended the 2012-13 fiscal year with $438,094 more in revenue than expenses.

Of that, more than $124,000 was added to the county’s general reserves, more than $199,000 went to increasing E-911 reserves and $35,000 was added to Pearl Hollow Landfill’s escrow account to help with landfill closure activities expected to take place decades from now.

In total, revenue for the year was nearly $29.5 million and expenditures came to about $28 million.

This is the ninth year the government has completed a yearly budget without taking money from reserves, Berry said.

“That’s something we’re very proud of compared to where things were a decade ago,” he said. “That’s quite a feat, we believe.”

It was made possible by all county departments cutting costs to each come in between 1 and 30 percent less than their spending plans. In some cases, that meant not using budgeted expenses when such costs were unnecessary, Berry said.

Being fiscally responsible is important, especially because only 15 percent of property taxes go to county government and state assistance is limited while expenses continue to increase, he said.

“The resources don’t grow quite as quickly as expenses seem to, much like for a lot of people at home: they don’t feel like they get raises as often as the price of gasoline or groceries or those types of things keep going up,” he said.

The Hardin County Detention Center followed the statewide trend of being the county government’s largest financial drain. The jail exceeded income by more than $3.3 million, nearly $427,000 more than the previous year.

Contracting meal and medical care services helped to prevent costs from being higher, Berry said.

Hardin County EMS expenses were within 4 percent of revenue for the fourth year in a row, less than a third of the deficit the county saw for decades previously. Staff members’ attention to detail and cooperation with the county’s contracted billing service have provided resources for quality, timely treatment, Berry said.

The sale of carbon credits and timber logged from the county landfill also have helped reduce expenses, bringing the deficit for the Solid Waste Department down to $188,000 from $566,000 the previous year.

Carbon credits come from the environmentally approved destruction of methane gas in the production of green electricity at the landfill. Sale of the credits brought in more than $160,000 and is expected to earn another $115,000 in the current fiscal year.

Sale of timber from the landfill generated $215,000 and is projected to bring in another $200,000 this year.

Hardin County remains one of the lowest-taxes counties in the state with a government that takes seriously the responsibility of providing programs and services without overspending the resources entrusted to it by taxpayers, Berry said.

Amber Coulter can be reached at (270) 505-1746 or acoulter@thenewsenterprise.com.