Belmont County Budget
The “Governmental Accounting “ process encompasses an entire fiscal year. The actual budget process begins in late spring and ends the following January for Belmont County.
In late April or early May, the County Auditor’s Office distributes individual departmental budget request reports reflecting the previous fiscal years total expenditures for each individual department. This budget forms details each individual line items of expenditure (know as appropriations). The appropriations include salaries, withholdings, contract payments, utilities, office supplies, and miscellaneous items depending upon the individual departmental needs. The number of appropriations depends upon the department’s individual need for financial tracking. At this point it is the individual department’s responsibility to create their “wish list” for the following fiscal year. Once they determine what their individual needs are they forward this information to the County Commissioners. This information is reviewed and their needs are compared to the prior years actual expenditures. Most departments note any unusual changes in the amounts they are requesting. Change can be the result from the hiring or retirement of personal, any capital projects, and additional revenue anticipated from any outside source which will offset usage of the General Fund and various other items. Also at this time the County Auditor provides to the Commissioners the actual revenue received in the previous year as well as estimates for the current year and the following year. The annual Budget information is compiled as a result of all of these calculations. The Budget reports the revenue received vs. the expenditures. It shows the trend of whether or not the total county general fund is anticipating spending more or less of what is expected to be collected from taxes and other sources and unencumbered monies.
The County Commissioners review and approve the Budget no later than July 15 and submit the Budget to the County Auditor no later than July 20th. The Budget Commission, which is comprised of the County Auditor, County Treasurer and County Prosecutor, review the budget and certify the estimated revenue. This action is formally approved by the County Commissioners during the month of September.
As a result of the declining revenue experienced by Belmont County, in 2009 the Board of Commissioners held individual departmental budget hearings. The Elected Officials and Department Heads along with the Commissioners had round table discussions on where the departments were headed financially and if they could tolerate any reductions in their budgets. This information was then compiled into temporary appropriations. No formal action was taken. In mid to late December the County Auditor advises the Commissioners of the anticipated revenue and carryover monies that should be anticipated for usage in the following fiscal year.
In last week of December or first week of January the Budget Commission presents to the Commissioners an “Amended Certificate of Estimated Resources”. This document basically states that the unencumbered balances (left over monies from the current year that have not been placed or encumbered into purchase orders for expenditure purposes aka beginning cash) plus the anticipated taxes and other sources equal the total amount certified (allowable) for expenditure purposes for the new fiscal year.
The Commissioners are then responsible for setting up and adopting the Annual Appropriations for all county departments. The appropriations cannot exceed the total amount certified on the amended certificate. If the Commission feels that there are uncertainties or variables that exist that could increase or decrease the appropriation needs, they can pass temporary appropriations. This action allows the departments to continue their day to day routine of paying their bills and payroll. If the Commission determines that the departments are budgeted accordingly and within the limits of the certified monies they can pass permanent appropriations. Regardless of which measure they take the final “permanent appropriations” have to be adopted prior to April 1st. Once completed the Budget Commission certifies that the appropriations do not exceed the Amended Certificate.
Once the Commission adopts the final appropriations they are distributed to the individual departments. It now becomes the responsibility of the individual departments to “live within” their appropriations or commonly referred to as “living within their budgets”.
The Commissioners distribute the final appropriations to all departments and the entire process repeats itself.
An explanation of the appropriations, certification and proper procedure for expending money is as follows:
The Annual Appropriations are broken down by department. Each department has multiple appropriations. Once the appropriations are adopted the departments have the option of transferring their monies within their appropriations. This is done by formal request to the Board of Commissioners. These transfers are closely scrutinized as the moving of the funds can cause shortages if not tracked accordingly.
Also, if monies are received which were not originally budgeted the departments can request that additional appropriations be made. This requires the department requesting additional certification from the Budget Commission of the monies received. Once certified the monies can be appropriated for expenditure purposes. This practice is common for items such as the Sheriff’s Department receiving donations to feed their horses or reimbursements from various areas. Due to the fact that money is donated or reimbursed and not typical revenue received this revenue is not included in the anticipated annual revenue. Therefore, each time it is received the above process must occur prior to any expenditures being made.
In order for any department to expend their appropriations, they must first encumber the monies. This is done by purchase order. The department must ascertain the total purchase price of an item needed. They must then create a purchase order. This process encumbers (or sets aside) the money needed for the purchase and temporarily debits the appropriation. From this the Vendor is contacted and the purchase is made. Once the product is received and the invoice and statement are received a voucher is created which tells the County Auditor’s Office the amount, and to whom the payment needs made. Once the Auditor’s office pays the invoice this amount is deducted permanently from the appropriation.
The ultimate goal is to only spend the revenue that is allotted by appropriations. The purchase order system was developed to insure that all monies have to be encumbered prior to any expenditures being made. In some cases this cannot be avoided. An example would be when a department purchases an item and unforeseen costs associated with the purchase (such as shipping etc) arise. At this time the department can produce a “then and now” purchase order. This purchase order allows for the same process as stated above however, it enables the additional costs to also be paid. Basically it states that when the purchase was made “then” it was X number of dollars and “now” that figure has changed.