BELTON — Christmas came a little early for the Bell County Commissioners Court on Monday with news the budget is in better shape than expected.

On Monday, County Auditor Donna Eakin presented the final amendments for the 2012-2013 budget.

She told commissioners that after all the tax statements and expenditure reports were in, the county’s revenue increased by $2.1 million, going from a projected $74.8 million to $76.8 million.

Eakin drew particular attention to a 7.4 percent uptick in sales tax revenue.

“It’s a leading economic indicator,” Eakin said.

The growth in sales taxes raised county revenue by more than $1 million and took the fund from $14.7 million to $15.8 million.

The largest percentage growth came in the form of increased state and federal grants, which were up 19 percent, or $174,312, over projections.

A 6.1 percent growth in fees for government services added more than $600,000 to the county coffers, Eakin said.

While the amount of money paid for licenses and permits increased by only about $180,000, that increase represented a 7 percent growth over expectations.

The news was just as good on the expenditure side of the balance sheet.

Eakin told commissioners that almost all expense categories came in under budget.

The county’s general administration expenses came in at $1.5 million under the $24.5 million budgeted. General administration expenses include those for the Commissioners Court, district clerk and county clerk.

The county’s road and bridge expenses were under budget by almost $60,000. Precinct 1 Commissioner Richard Cortese clarified the expenses for road and bridges cover more than just county-maintained roads.

“That includes some of the rights of way we pay (Texas Department of Transportation) for,” Cortese said.

Public safety expenses were 1.3 percent, or $367,557, over the projected $28.5 million budget. The county’s total expenditures were under budget by $1.7 million, which Eakin said was below the projected margin. The county was able to bring the fund balance, a five-month cash-on-hand reserve to meet operating expenses, up from $1.5 million to $2.7 million.

“This brings our fund balance back to 2008 levels,” Eakin said. “Just like everyone, 2009, 2010 and 2011 hit us pretty hard. We saw a drop in sales tax revenue and we had to dip into the fund balance a little bit.”

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