County revenue to rise with PILT intact

Mar 20, 2014 By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Fremont County should have more money in fiscal year 2015 as it expects revenues to be up $510,000 compared to the current projection for this year, fiscal 2014. It also could have a $1.5 million surplus from the current fiscal year.

Fremont County Treasurer Scott Harnsberger reported the estimates to Fremont County Commissioners.

Estimated revenue for fiscal 2015 is $2 million greater than the revenues commissioners used to form the budget for fiscal 2014. The figure they used was from an earlier revenue projection for the fiscal year.

"We're in a lot better (shape) than we were last year," Commissioner Travis Becker said.

Commissioners plan to use the revenue estimate for fiscal 2015 when budgeting for the upcoming year.

Harnsberger estimates revenues for fiscal 2015 will total $24.2 million and now projects income for fiscal 2014 will be $23.7 million. Last spring, he thought revenues for fiscal 2014 would total $22.2 million.

Fiscal years run from July 1 to June 30 and are named for the year in which they end.

PILT confirmed

A major part of the differences between the original prediction for the current year, the projection now and the estimate for next year comes from payment in lieu of taxes, Harnsberger said..

The federal government gives PILT rather than pay property taxes the land it owns within the county.

In its budget for fiscal 2014, commissioners counted on $1.362 million, about half of what the county was owed because they were not confident the federal government would pay the whole amount.

Congress had waffled recently on how much it would pay and left PILT funding out of a spending bill passed in January.

"With the farm bill passing we are estimating receiving $2.555 million (from PILT)," Harnsberger said.

He expects to receive those funds in late summer but would count them as revenue in the current fiscal year.

Congress passed the Agricultural Act of 2014, or farm bill, in January, and it included funding for PILT.

The $2.6 million factored in Harnsberger's current estimate for fiscal 2014 and accounted for about $1.2 million of the $1.5 million total difference between projections.

Other major components of the increase were a $170,000 larger transfer from the forest reserve special reserve fund and a $110,000 larger transfer from the county's investment pool.

Commissioners budgeted for only receiving 60 percent of the PILT money the county should receive Harnsberger said in an interview, because of worries Congress would not fund the program fully. The federal government in the past only funded part of PILT, leading to the county board's fears.

A spending bill Congress passed in January did not include money for the program, and the county was not lined up to receive any PILT money from it until the farm bill passed.

If the county spend more than it budgeted for this fiscal year, the $1.5 million would be left over.

"It will be surplus, and what that does is increase fund balance and will be carried over next year," Harnsberger said. "It could be used to fund government next year, or it may be used to increase reserves."

Again next year

He expects the county's PILT revenues to increase another $60,000 for fiscal 2015, Harnsberger said at the meeting. Several other factors were significant in the total $510,000 expected increase from the current projection for fiscal 2014 and the estimate for fiscal 2015.

Harnsberger expects $180,000 more from property taxes due to a higher assessed value for the county. Fuels taxes should bring in $260,000 more and state sales tax revenue will increase $200,000, he reported. State assistance would decrease $160,000 and transfers from the detention center facility trust would go down $110,000.

The county transfers money out of the detention center trust and spends it on the facility, Harnsberger said. Moving more or less money out of the fund does not impact what money the commission has available for anything else.

"That has zero effect on the budget," he said.

In the current year, commissioners authorized a large project to refurbish the building's floors, which drew more money than usual from the detention center trust.

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