February 29, 2012
By Joe Smillie
It wasn’t as bad as they figured.
Whitman County’s various departments spent $102,356 more than they received in revenue in the finalized version of the 2011 books.
Financial Adminstrator David Ledbetter gave department leaders final figures at a meeting last week. Those figures showed departments within the county’s current expense budget spent $11,761,022 while revenues generated $11,658,666. Both totals were nearly $700,000 below the figures projected in the budget.
The deficit reflects a marked improvement from the $330,000 deficit when the 2011 spending report was finalized.
The reduced deficit, though, is also a result of a switch in the county’s accounting practices.
County officials, in an effort to meet state audit standards, opted to prepare their financial statement on a simple “cash” basis, instead of the more detailed accrual method.
The simpler cash model shows the county’s financial status at the end of each year. Accrual accounting tracks the value of all county-owned assets, instead of just financial transactions.
Ledbetter reported the cash accounting system left some $95,000 of expenses incurred in 2011 that will have to be logged in the 2012 books. Accounting for those expenses under the cash model will inflate the 2012 spending totals, he noted.
Factoring in those expenses, the 2011 deficit would be $197,356.
The county’s final 2011 budget was passed in December 2010 with a $666,000 deficit.
Commissioners mandated department leaders collectively cut half of that from their spending plans, while the remaining half would be balanced out of the county’s cash reserves.
The $197,356 hole the county ended 2011 with will be balanced with that cash.
Just under two-thirds of the county’s 2011 spending was paid in salaries and benefits, employees receiving $7,673,174 of the $11,761,022 spent last year.
Largest revenue source for the county last year was property taxes, which generated $4,200,070.
Highest cost department was the sheriff’s office, which spent $3,003,614 last year, just under a quarter of the overall spending total.