County budget in good shape at midpoint of fiscal year

Major revenues up 9.1% compared to same period of 2017 fiscal year and expenditures staying in check

A chart shows the status of specific Sarasota County revenue sources at the midpoint of the current fiscal year. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Major Sarasota County revenues were up 9.1% compared to staff’s projection for the midpoint of the current fiscal year, and overall expenditures were at the 37% mark, county staff reported to the County Commission this week.

Those numbers were part of a review of the status of the budget for the fiscal year that began on Oct. 1, 2017.

“We’re glad we’re in the black and doing better than we expected,” Chair Nancy Detert said.

During their regular meeting on April 25, the board also approved an amendment to their 2018 fiscal year budget to reflect spending reductions they approved on Jan. 31. Formally, those changes will save the county $1,974,885 for the remaining six months of the current fiscal year.

Altogether, the Jan. 31 decisions represented $5.3 million in annual recurring expenses that will be reflected in the 2019 and subsequent fiscal year budgets, County Administrator Jonathan Lewis reminded the board members on April 25. Those included plans to leave vacant positions unfilled.

Among specific funds Kim Radtke, director of the county’s Office of Financial Management, reviewed this week, she noted that revenue from the county’s 1-cent sales tax — approved by voter referendum in 2009 for infrastructure projects — was 8.9% higher than expected; revenue from the county’s five separate gas taxes was up 8.8% compared to the budget projection; and the combined county utility revenues were 8.1% higher.

Revenue from the 5% Tourist Development Tax (TDT) — the “bed tax” — was 17% above the staff projection for the midpoint, Radtke said.

However, the figure staff used for its April 25 presentation did not encompass the latest report from the Sarasota County Tax Collector’s Office, which reflected revenue collected through the end of February. That report showed the TDT revenue was up $1,049,576.68 compared to the same period of the 2017 fiscal year. (See the related article in this issue.)

A chart shows the status of expenditures by Sarasota County departments at the midpoint of the fiscal year. Image courtesy Sarasota County

No department operating under the aegis of the County Commission had spent 50% of its budget by the midpoint, Radtke added. Twelve of them were more than 10% below the 50% level, she pointed out. “County staff did a really good job of being conservative,” she said, before the County Commission took measures during its Jan. 31 budget workshop.

In regard to other facets of the midyear budget, Radtke noted that the Sarasota County Fire Department/EMS fund had spent 42% of its projected expenses for the 2018 fiscal year; and the Medical Benefits Fund had paid out 47% of its projected expenses.

The General Fund expenses were at the 44% level.

The Solid Waste Fund had the smallest outlay of any major county fund at the midpoint of the fiscal year, according to a chart provided to the board: 27%. The Utilities Fund was at the 29% mark.

Among other trends worth noting, County Administrator Lewis pointed out that the number of building permits the county had issued by the middle of the fiscal year was up 18% compared to the same point in the prior fiscal year. The total was 19,273, he said. “I think that’s a significant number …”

The count of commercial permits was 78% higher than the figure at the midpoint of the 2017 fiscal year, he added, with 64 having been approved.

A chart provides county statistics for the midpoint of the current fiscal year. Image courtesy Sarasota County

For single-family residential construction, a 4% decrease had been recorded through March, compared to the figure as of the end of March 2017, according to a chart Lewis showed the commission. Of those permits, 54% were issued in North County; the remaining 46%, in South County.

However, the total number of permits for multi-family units was up 62% through the midpoint of the current fiscal year, compared to the figure for the midpoint of FY17.

Yet another statistic Lewis cited was the 3% increase in calls to the county’s Contact Center as of the middle of the current fiscal year. That total was 90,724, a chart said. “That’s a huge volume,” he told the board.

Residents call the center for a variety of reasons, he explained. For example, some need general information, he said, while others check on the status of work permits.

Social media contacts also are on the rise on a monthly basis, he pointed out. So far this fiscal year, county government’s Facebook page has seen the number of “likes” rise each month, reflecting a 10.5% uptick compared to the same period of the 2017 fiscal year.