City, county finalize budgets for new year

Published 11:10 pm Tuesday, September 15, 2015

With the month of September halfway over and a new fiscal year quickly approaching, state legislators aren’t the only ones dealing with a budget.

The Dallas County Commission voted Monday to approve a budget for 2016, and the city of Selma is in the process of holding budget hearings to finalize a budget.

Dallas County’s 2016 budget estimates $22.2 million in revenues and $23.5 million in expenditures, which is a difference of $1.26 million. Ballard said the difference would be made up with the fund balance.

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Selma Mayor George Evans said he expects the city’s 2016 budget, which hasn’t been approved yet, to be around $17.2 million. The budget for 2015 was $16.8 million with $16.95 million in estimated revenue.

Dallas County Commission Chairman and Probate Judge Kim Ballard said balancing a budget is no easy task.

“It makes it sound easy balancing a $23 million budget with these revenues, but it is not easy. We have to watch pennies,” Ballard said. “It is a struggle to balance a budget. We can’t play with numbers. We have to have a balanced budget.”

The majority of the county’s budget goes towards general government, which is an estimated $3.6 million, public safety, which is estimated to be $5.8 million, and the engineering department, which is estimated to be $8.9 million.

“Between the sheriff’s department, the road department and general government, that is pretty well the budget,” Ballard said.

The money that goes toward general government covers all of the expenses of around 200 county employees and other costs.

The $5.8 million that goes to public safety covers the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department, which is $2.1 million and the Dallas County Emergency Management Agency, which is an estimated $115,000.

The majority of the city’s budget will go toward general government, the police department, the fire department, city hall and projects from previous years.

In 2015, the city budgeted $3.597 million to general government, $4.36 million to police, $2.6 million to fire and $2.6 million to city hall.

The county’s public safety budget covers the Dallas County Jail, which costs an estimated $1.59 million. Ballard said that money covers jail employees, medical costs, foods costs and other costs associated with the jail.

The money budgeted to public safety also pays for the Juvenile Detention Center and the Camp Perry Varner Boot Camp. The center costs around $709,000, and the camp costs around $600,000.

The jail, center and boot camp are all joint ventures with the city, but the city of Selma only pays $200,000 for the jail and $30,000 for the detention center.

“We pay the $1.6 million, and they pay us $200,000 a year to house their prisoners, feed their prisoners and do the medical supply for their prisoners,” Ballard said.

The county asked the city earlier this year to pay $60,000 for the detention center, which is around 10 percent of the budget, but the city only agreed to pay $30,000 because funds were already obligated elsewhere.

“It is a harsh reality when you go around there realistically begging for a joint project that [the city] got much more involvement in and don’t pay a dime, and then they refuse to pay 10 percent,” Ballard said.

The $8.9 million budgeted to the county engineering department covers the upkeep of an estimated 1,000 miles of roads. Ballard said around 500 miles are dirt and another 500 miles are paved.

The county’s main revenue streams include county sales tax and ad valorem tax, which both account for an estimated $2.9 million each.

Last year, the city’s main stream of revenue was sales tax, which was projected to be $10.3 million, and business licenses, which was projected to be $2.7 million.

“The budget is balanced. We had no problem with that,” Evans said.

“It is just a question of what else we’re going to be able to do with the extra money we’ve got.”

Evans said an increase in sales accounted for the difference from 2015 to 2016. Evans expects to have extra revenue that is undesignated that could go toward possible raises for employees or capital projects.

Evans said the 2016 budget is ready, and it just has to be approved by the city council.