BELTON — Bell County’s increasing revenue is a sign the economy is improving, according to the county auditor’s office, which presented its annual budgetary report to the Bell County Commissioners Court on Monday.

The 2013 report showed total county revenue was up $4 million from 2012, with more than 50 percent of it from additional property taxes.

“The increase in property tax revenue comes from new construction,” said Steve Neimar, Bell County’s certified public accountant.

County expenses grew by 2 percent last year, a figure Neimar said was reflective of the pay raise implemented by the county.

He directed the commissioners’ attention to the $21.1 million growth in Bell County’s property tax revenue since 2004, which Neimar described as “a really encouraging sign.”

The county was able to add $2.7 million to the fund balance, something Bell County Judge Jon Burrows described as an indicator of “a very good year.”

Bell County also saw sales tax revenue climb by $800,000 to a total of $15.8 million.

Charges for governmental services, such as registering a car or filing a document, grew from $17.25 million to $18.13 million.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Richard Cortese noted the lagging increases in nonproperty tax revenue reflected areas in need of improvement.

“There are some issues we have to work on there,” Cortese said. “Growth in every area isn’t as strong as it needs to be.”

Neimar said the commissioners court doesn’t control all of the county’s revenue sources.

“In some cases, it’s the state that regulates what is charged,” Neimar said, “and in some cases, it’s the court system that determines it.”

He added the county went into the budget cycle expecting a $1 million deficit but “ended with a $2 million surplus.”

The audit showed the county experiencing “a lot of strong financial growth,” Burrows said. “The economy appears to be stable,” he said. “During tough times, the worst that happened was the growth (in revenue) appeared to remain flat.”

He also complimented the county department heads with their judicious use of resources. “They rein in their departments and keep their expenses down,” Burrows said. “We couldn’t do it without them.”

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