Budget Committee And County Commission Look At Future Funding Questions

The Jefferson County Budget Committee is already looking at some of the last budget season’s hot topic items, as it takes first steps toward discussion regarding fire department funding and employee health care. Budget Committee Chairman Scarlett charged the Budget Committee with going into their respective districts for answers to questions regarding funding priorities for those hot topic items. In the current fiscal year, all fire departments walked away with less than they requested but more than what they had received in previous fiscal years. But, the funding was slated as a one time bonus and will likely not be the starting line for negotiations in the upcoming fiscal year.

Another non profit group that has requested additional funding for the current fiscal year is the Jefferson County Humane Society. With their coffers running short, the organization requested a one time funding request of $30,000 from the Budget Committee at the Tuesday, October 10th Budget Committee meeting. Pleading the case for the Humane Society was Budget Committee Member McGraw who also sits on the Animal Control Oversight Committee along with County Commissioner Randy Bales who serves as Chair. McGraw stated that both he and Committee Chair Bales have been over the books for the Humane Society and the shortfall is legitimate. He said that the leaders of the organization have been fiscally responsible but the numbers just don’t work and without the additional funding the organization will be in a dire position before the start of 2018. In answer to the $30,000 request being acknowledged as a one time funding move, McGraw said that the organization, along with the Committee, is looking at various alternatives for funding and are not prepared to present those at this time. However, he also acknowledged that , though the starting point for funding for the Humane Society would not include the additional $30,000 the organization obviously cannot continue with the current level of funding. On Committee recommendation, the Budget Committee approved the request for a one time funding in the amount of $30,000 for the Humane Society. The Humane Society will receive an explanatory letter in the same vein that the fire departments received for their one time funding.

In other business, the Budget Committee approved various school and county side budget amendments, as well as allocated $25,000 from fund balance to be held in reserve for grants, on a motion from Commissioner Huffaker and McGraw. In an effort to clean up the parameters of a previous motion that allocated funds for a 2% bonus for County employees, the Budget Committee approved the parameters that excluded elected officials from the bonus, required employment at the time of the bonus and stated a payment date of October 20, 2017.

During the next few months, the Budget Committee will being to examine options to deal with health care increases for County employees. It was noted that the cost of health care for County employees has increased almost one million and a half dollars over the course of the past several years and that the growing expense requires a funding plan on the part of the County.

The County Commission full body met for their Work Session following the Budget Committee meeting. Topics of interest included continued funding for EDA and the parameters of the IDB, as well as revisiting the election of the County Finance Committee, both of which will eventually come before the full body in the forms of motions for a vote.

Source: K. Depew, News Director

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