County Revenue Up, Sort Of
GRAND RAPIDS — First-quarter revenues to Kent County’s general operating fund were up by more than 6 percent from the same period last year to $27.4 million, but that figure represents a bit of a distortion.
The fund received $2.5 million in delinquent tax payments during the recently completed first quarter, while none were recorded during last year’s first quarter when revenues totaled $25.8 million. So the delinquent tax receipts accounted for much more than the $1.6 million revenue gain the fund had on March 31 of this year compared to the same date in 2007.
A bigger matter concerning revenue to the fund is that property taxes receipts were down by 42 percent for the first quarter compared to last year. In 2007, the county had $3.1 million in property-tax revenue. For 2008, that number fell to $1.8 million.
Without the delinquent tax payments, Kent County Fiscal Services Director Robert White said total revenue to the general fund would have fallen by 3.6 percent from last year. White said the state-mandated switch from winter to summer payment dates was the reason for the revenue decrease.
The county collected $89.7 million in property-tax revenue last year and the forecast for this year is $87.8 million, a decline of $1.9 million from 2007. Property taxes are about half of the fund’s total revenue and those dollars cover most of the services the county provides.
First-quarter general fund expenditures were down by 1.6 percent from last year to $34.3 million. But the spending dip still left the account with a shortfall of nearly $7 million for the fiscal year’s first 90 days.
At the end of the first quarter in 2007 the general fund was down by $9 million, but ended the year in the black by $900,000.
A surplus of $500,000 has been forecast for the general fund this year.
There is one general-fund expenditure that county officials plan to watch very closely. The county had to transfer $1.75 million from the general fund to the Department of Human Services child care fund, an increase of 29 percent over last year. Expenditures from the DHS fund totaled $5 million, a 24 percent hike compared to 2007. Revenues to the fund were down by 29 percent at $4 million, and the account had a $1 million shortfall at the end of the second quarter on March 31. This fund operates on the state’s fiscal year, which begins three months before the county’s.
Expenditures were up because the cost of providing foster care for children removed from their homes rose, and DHS has moved more kids into that type of care so far this year than it did over the same period last year. The state is obligated to reimburse the county for its expenses, but has been slow in doing so.
“We’ve only been reimbursed $1.5 million. So you have to cover it until you get reimbursed,” White told the county’s Finance Committee last week.
Kent County Administrator and Controller Daryl Delabbio told committee members that even more general fund dollars may have to be transferred to the DHS child care fund until the state pays up. He also said county officials were meeting with the DHS and encouraging the state agency to find ways to reduce its expenses.
Revenues to the Gerald R. Ford International Airport were down in the first quarter of this year. Net income to the airport was $2.7 million, a drop of 17 percent from last year’s first-quarter take of nearly $3.3 million.
“They’re going to go through a financial transition until they open the parking ramp next year,” said White.
Net income to the airport has been projected at $11.7 million for the year, 7.6 percent less than the $12.7 million earned last year.