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Budget okayed with
commission figures

by Mark Vasto
Landmark reporter

The Platte County Commissioners unanimously voted to approve the county’s 2004 operating budget, the 10th balanced budget for the county in as many years.

The $17 million dollar budget, as approved, includes a $1.9 million carryover from the previous budget and a near $500,000 increase in county salaries. The overall budget is about 18 percent higher than last year's reported 2003 budget of $13.9 million.

"Platte County's revenue engine continues to run smoothly,” said Commissioner Michael Short. "We don't have the problems that many neighboring counties have, we realize that, and we're very grateful for that."

County Auditor Sandra Thomas said she was glad the budgeting process was over for another year and thanked her staff for the hard work, saying that "officeholders and department heads in this county continue to work together to provide services in a cost effective manner.”

The largest source of anticipated revenues for the county continues to be sales tax, accounting for nearly 39 percent of revenues for the county's general fund.

As reported in previous issues of The Landmark, the county is betting on increased sales tax revenues from new developments such as the Parkville Commons, Zona Rosa and others. The county commission elected to ignore the county auditor's sales tax projections from 7 percent to 14 percent, setting off a mild firestorm within the county's Republican party.

Members of the Republican Central Committee, of which Thomas' husband James is a member, passed a resolution which criticized the commission's projections as not "reflecting reality." The county commission has said that if the county's revenues do not meet projections, they would actively curtail spending, assuring the committee that the county would not incur a deficit.

The largest increase by percentage in the budget will occur in interest income. The county anticipates the increase for 2004 because investments made by the county were shown to have obtained a greater return in 2002 than was finally realized. According to the auditor's office, the method of realizing interest on investments was changed so that interest is not realized in advance of final payments.

The largest dollar value increase came under the line item of "other government costs." The auditor's office said the increase is due to the debt service payment for the Platte County Resource Center. The second largest increase came under the administration of justice category, although the county will have a modest decrease in the law enforcement budget. The auditor's office said the decrease is primarily due to a shift of fund allocations for the 2004 budget.

The county's debt is projected to rise in 2004 with the new $29 million bond issue for community center construction. The county continues to manintain a AAA rating from both Standard & Poors and Moody's, reflecting a very solid financial condition.

The budget took effect on Jan. 1 with the general fund showing a balance of $1.92 million, the aforementioned carryover.

"Platte County will continue to work to provide taxpayers the high level of service they have known in the past while controlling the cost of government," Thomas said. "With cooperation and hard work this goal will be acheived in 2004 and the future.”


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