Franklin finances OK

Published 7:59 am Wednesday, February 24, 2010

FRANKLIN—Despite a surprise increase in the amount the city pays the Western Tidewater Regional Jail to house its inmates, Franklin’s finances are in good shape this fiscal year, and will likely be fine next year.

It’s beyond that timeframe that officials are concerned about.

Interim Finance Director Amber Stansbury presented a mid-year financial report to the City Council on Monday night. The report showed the city’s revenue as of Dec. 31, or the middle of the fiscal year. Revenues from real estate, personal property, sales, lodging, tobacco, communications, business license and meals taxes are on target, she said.

“We are right on line with where we were last year at this time,” Stansbury said.

The city’s revenue-sharing agreement with Isle of Wight County brought in $154,708 more than was budgeted this year.

“We budgeted $1.1 million and we received almost $1.3 million,” Stansbury said.

State financial aid to the Police Department fell by more than $20,000 this fiscal year, Stansbury said.

“In the beginning of the fiscal year, we actually budgeted less than what they awarded us, they decreased that a couple of months ago — it was still more than what we had budgeted — and then just in the last month we got notice that it was going to decrease some more, so after all of the numbers are netted, it’s $23,000 that we will need to cut or come up with,” she said.

The biggest obstacle for the city’s budget this year is the increase in the costs of housing inmates at the Western Tidewater Regional Jail. State budget cuts coupled with a decreasing number of federal inmates at the jail means higher costs to the three communities that use it — Franklin, Suffolk and Isle of Wight County.

Stansbury said the city would be making a $120,000 payment to the jail authority next month, which marks an increase of $87,212 more than the city’s originally budgeted amount for the entire year of about $65,000.

“This $87,212 is unbudgeted money,” said City Manager June Fleming. “We do not have that money calculated into our budget for this year.”

Next year’s contribution to the jail authority is likely to be even harder to swallow, according to Fleming.

“Although the budget for next year has not been voted on by the jail board, we will have over a 400-percent increase,” she said. Fleming said it would be a challenge to come up with the extra money, but the city is required to pay the costs of housing its inmates by law.

Cities and counties across the state are already predicting budget issues and cuts for fiscal year 2011, Fleming said “it’s reasonable to assume that there will be cuts next year,” but Franklin’s big revenue sources, like the revenue-sharing district will still be intact.

“We’re OK for this year and we think we’ll squeak by with some changes that we’ve already talked about for next year,” the following year, she said, will likely be a bigger challenge.

Both Fleming and Stansbury said city employees have been instrumental in helping the city cut costs where possible.

“We’ve done more trimming and doing things differently than you really see,” Fleming said. “I really commend them. They’ve done a great job.”