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Got an extra $4.7 million?

Utah County commissioners go on scavenger hunt for '06 budget

PROVO — Utah County commissioners are looking for $4.7 million.

The county's proposed budget for 2006 lists expenditures in the general fund at $63.6 million and expected revenues of only $58.9 million.

But, there's no need for Utah County residents to panic: "We're not anticipating raising taxes," said Utah County Clerk/Auditor Kim Jackson.

That means county departments will be trimming their budget requests to bring revenue and expenditures into harmony. Jackson and Utah County commissioners Jerry Grover, Larry Ellertson and Steve White will meet throughout November to balance the budget, first looking for any additional revenue sources that might have been overlooked and then weighing wants against the actual needs of the various county departments to make cuts. The final budget proposal is scheduled to go before the commissioners for approval on Dec. 6.

"The tentative budget is basically just requests by department heads," Jackson said. "We'll change some of them over the next month or so to bring it in line with the revenue. I honestly don't know what the final effect will be until we go through the process."

One listed expenditure that will need to be adjusted, he said, is the $1.14 million budgeted for elections — nearly $1 million more than in 2005.

"Every other year, the budget jumps because we have to run the countywide elections," Jackson said. "And next year, we're going to be using electronic voting equipment."

Still, the $1.15 million likely is too high, he said. The county included additional funds as a result of the state Legislature considering changes to the Utah election code to allow for early voting. Such changes would permit voters to vote up to two weeks before Election Day.

"Since the Legislature hasn't passed it yet, we're going to pull all that (money) out until it does," Jackson said.

The 2006 budget — which will take effect on Jan. 1 and follow the traditional calendar year — includes few significant expenditure increases from this year's budget, which after a midyear adjustment will finish out at $55.7 million.

The county is also on track to finish 2005 with a surplus in its budget. In mid-October, with less than 25 percent of the year remaining, the county still had 38 percent of its budget in the general fund, Jackson said.

"We usually come in under budget every year," he said. "The department heads are very good about making sure they stay within their budget."

Rising fuel costs have created a few headaches this year for Utah County Public Works Director Clyde Naylor. Public works budgeted $500,000 for fuel in 2005 but needed an additional $50,000 during midyear budget amendments to finish out the year.

For 2006, Naylor has requested $750,000 to cover fuel costs for public works, which purchases gasoline in bulk for county vehicles — including those used by the sheriff's department.

"The fuel adjustment was something we couldn't foresee," Jackson said.

Budgeting for fuel increases is hardly an exact science, Naylor said, but he's hoping the $750,000 will cover the county's needs.

"We took the increase that we had this year and projected it for a full year," he said.

Public works also has requested about $1 million more for roads in 2006 than in 2005 — increasing that item from $3.89 million to $4.81 million. That jump is the result of a planned right-of-way purchase on a road in the area between Salem and Spanish Fork, Naylor said.

On the revenue side, property tax revenue is budgeted at $13.3 million for 2006 — up from $12.9 million in 2005. The additional money is expected to come from continuing commercial and residential development in the county.


E-mail: jpage@desnews.com