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During a state of the county address earlier this month, Hardin County Judge-Executive Harry Berry promised county government once again would maintain a balanced budget without dipping into reserves at fiscal year’s end.
On Tuesday, his prediction edged closer to reality.
Berry presented a mid-year review of the county’s finances during Hardin Fiscal Court’s regular meeting, in which he revealed the county is riding a $3.4 million surplus into the second half of the budget cycle.
Through Dec. 31, the county had collected $16.4 million, or roughly 58 percent, of the projected $28.1 million in income this year.
Comparatively, the county has held costs below expectations, expending roughly $13 million during the same time period.
In clamping down on costs, personnel expenditures have held below budget as well, with about $5.3 million of the expected $11.3 million spent on staffing by the end of December.
Berry said roughly 40 percent of the budget is made up of employee-based expenses, with 32.8 percent of those expenses coming in benefits.
When comparing this year’s numbers to the 2009-10 budget, the county is nearly $1 million ahead because of a $586,778 increase in overall income and a dip in expenses by $361,093, according to the report.
Noticeable in those changes is a $510,000 bump in jail revenue, and an $826,000 increase in general fund money.
Yet the county has some definitive challenges ahead as it turns its attention to the latter half of the budget calendar.
For one, jail costs continue to surge well beyond revenues, leading to a $1.6 million shortfall in the first six months.
And while movement at the Pearl Hollow Landfill is increasing, the amount of waste generated there still is falling below expectations. Hoping to garner 80,000 tons of waste at the landfill by the six-month divide, less than 67,000 tons of waste actually was collected.
Likewise, the sale of carbon credits has yet to materialize into income for the county. Berry said the verification process for the credits is ongoing and is not likely to be finished in time to reap any benefits during the current fiscal year.
There are some avenues in which the landfill has improved this year — most notable financially.
Revenues from the landfill exceeded costs by more than $233,000 during the six-month recording period, placing it about $400,000 above last year’s midway point.
And Santek Environmental is in the process of negotiating a contract with a Louisville waste hauler to bring more than 100,000 tons of waste to the landfill annually, which the county hopes will start this spring.
Another concern is a sizable increase in asphalt costs this year. Berry said the county’s asphalt needs are more than $120,000 above last year’s total and will finish around $722,000 — some of which will be offset by state supplements. The amount, Berry added, should purchase about 15,200 tons of asphalt.
And while fuel costs are hitting budget, Berry said these costs could rise from the $429,100 budgeted to $450,000 by current trends.
Berry also tempered the good news with some words of caution, saying some revenue streams, such as the bulk of property taxes, already have been collected.
Because of this, he added, the county must be responsible stewards to avoid any potential pitfalls or snares that could bust the budget.
Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or at firstname.lastname@example.org