Elected to office in November after previously being appointed, Camden County Auditor Jimmy Laughlin presented the draft budget for 2019 to the public.

The public review of the Camden County proposed budget appeared to show a new day in county government and was a far cry from last year’s budget hearing. 

Elected to office in November after previously being appointed, Camden County Auditor Jimmy Laughlin presented the draft budget for 2019 to the public on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018. 

Unlike last year’s commission hearing which devolved into shouting between staffers of different offices, the hearing this year was appreciably civil.

A Power Point presentation by Laughlin overviewed the county, its finances and organization over the last few years and into next year. Once completed, the 10 or 15 people present had no comments and there was little in the way of questions outside of technical details from department heads.

Many elected officials and some courthouse staffers were in the audience, though Camden County commissioners themselves were absent. The commission is the chief financial board of the county and are charged with the final approval of the annual budget.

According to emailed replies from Associate Commissioner Bev Thomas and Associate Commissioner Don Williams, the commission is holding a public meeting Dec. 20 to finalize budget and can take comments then.

Thomas was on vacation, and Williams said he was meeting with residents of Asbury Rd. about an ongoing road construction project. As of press time, there was no response from Presiding Commissioner Greg Hasty to the Lake Sun’s email inquiry which allowed a little over a 24-hour response window between Wednesday afternoon and early Thursday evening.

The Lake Sun is reviewing the proposed budget in detail and will soon follow up with more details on some changes proposed for next year.

The total budget to cover all county offices is an estimated $27,926,859.75. While total revenue for 2019 is anticipated to total only $21,029.481.61, enough rollover funds from 2018 are anticipated to be able to easily cover the gap between budgeted revenue and expenses for the year. 

One of the most interesting notes from Laughlin’s presentation was a 10-year historical perspective on the county’s major funds. There were a few years — 2008, 2009 and 2014 — during the recession when expenditures outpaced revenue by the end of the year, not due so much to declining revenues but to flat revenues and a boost in expenditures that remained largely in place.

At the end of 2017, it is apparent that in a year of much talked-about controversy among courthouse departments, a sizable cut in expenditures caused revenues to outpace expenses by more than $5.5 million, far higher than any other individual annual surplus from the 10-year period.

Overall the county’s five major funds which together cover the expenses of county government have come out ahead, gaining close to $3.9 million altogether from the end of 2007 to the end of 2017.

It should be noted that former presiding commissioner Carolyn Loraine was in office from the beginning of the timeline to the end of 2010. Former presiding commissioner Kris Franken was in office from 2011 to the end of 2014. Current Presiding Commissioner Hasty took office in 2015 and was re-elected in November to a second term that will begin in January.