Although Harvey County's budget typically draws the most attention from the public when it is approved each summer, budgeting and financial management actually is a year-long process.

Anthony Swartzendruber, assistant administrator and finance director for the county, keeps busy either closing out a previous year's budget, managing the current budget or planning for the next year's budget. He said the county ended 2012 in good shape and is well prepared for 2013.

"Harvey County ended the year with a strengthened financial position, which enables the county to meet future commitments, both planned and unplanned," he said. "... Department heads did an excellent job on their budgets this year."

The county's overall expenditures (un-audited) for 2012 were $16.6 million, and revenues were $17.5 million.

The county department with the largest budget in 2012 was the sheriff's department at $3.25 million, which includes funding for the detention center, investigations and patrol. Public safety makes up 54 percent of the county's total general fund expenditures.

Swartzendruber said there weren't too many unexpected major expenses last year. Although the commission did approve a new video surveillance system in the detention center — a project not originally in the county budget — the sheriff's department was able to absorb the cost of the project within its operating budget.

The county's largest capital improvement project in 2012 was its road overlay program. About 5.56 miles of road received a 2-inch overlay. Other major expenditures for 2012 included replacing five vehicles in the sheriff's department and replacing the county's AS/400 financial system.

The county was able to cut costs in several places, such as encouraging departments to reduce overtime expenses. Lower utility and fuel costs also helped the county to save money.

Swartzendruber said the county keeps some money in reserve each year, so the county has extra money it could spend in case of an emergency. The county's primary operating fund, or the general fund, must include money set aside that is equal to a minimum of 10 percent of budgeted annual expenditures and transfers out. Other funds — such as the road and bridge fund and the county extension fund — are required to have a minimum of 5 percent of the budgeted annual expenditures and transfers out.

Looking ahead, the county's biggest capital improvement expense for 2013 also will be in the road and bridge department. The county has scheduled 6 miles of 2-inch overlay on South Hertzler from Halstead to the county line. The amount budgeted for the project is $775,000.

The county also has begun looking at replacing the courthouse heating and cooling system.

"We'll have to budget for some major improvements either in 2014 or 2015," Swartzendruber said.

Planning for the 2014 budget will begin in February, and departments will begin meeting with county commissioners in May and June to go over their budget requests. Swartzendruber anticipates the 2014 budget will be adopted on Aug. 12. He said federal and state cuts will continue to impact local government budgeting decisions.