Budget Committee Has $839,000 Hole To Fill

The Jefferson County Budget Committee will enter the final few weeks of budget season looking for $837,000 following the review and passage of most departmental budgets. After receiving budget requests and the passage of non profits, the committee found themselves digging out of a nearly $1.1 million dollar hole. Jefferson County Sheriff McCoig cut just north of $282,000 prior to the budget meeting to bring the number down to the $887,000 range. A hand full of small cuts from various budgets lowered the deficit another $50,000 during the meeting last week.

Good news for the Budget Committee is that the worth of a penny has risen $1,500 to $120,500 but even that boost could not off set fiscal year 2018/19 increases, some of which were natural cost of living increases and others from department and non profit requests. Large tab increases from non profits came in at around $197,000 which included fire department funding, Jefferson County Rescue Squad, Boys & Girls Club, Safe Space and CARE. The total for non profit funding came in at $1.2 million.

The majority of high dollar departmental requests appeared to be employee centered. Ambulance/Emergency Medical Services requested an increase of $158,801 with the majority of that being in personnel line items. The Budget Committee reduced their requested budget to $148,801 by cutting $10,000 and it was approved 8-1. While several departments requested small increases, the Budget Committee struggled to find large expenditure requests that could be cut to bring the deficit in line.

One department, the Solid Waste/Sanitation budget, was spared a cut from a fifteen penny allocation of property tax dollars to fourteen pennies of property tax dollars with a motion to postpone until Landfill/Sanitation Department Head Gaut can discuss a recent increase in fees to dispose of items at the landfill with his Board. Several members of the Budget Committee noted that trash on the side of the roads had increased since the decision to up the fee and more than one said that there were vigorous complaints in their communities. The Landfill/Sanitation budget will be taken up again by the Budget Committee.

Yet to be heard by the Budget Committee is requests from the Jefferson County Department of Education. They will bring their budget before the Committee later this month. In the meanwhile, members of the Budget Committee and the Jefferson County Finance Office will be looking for avenues to cover a $839,000 shortage for the fiscal year 2018/19. Any roll over funds ( extra funds not used in this year’s budget) will not be known until later in the summer. The current fiscal year ends on June 30, 2018 and the Budget Committee anticipates having a working budget in place before the start of the new fiscal year. Currently, Jefferson County has roughly $500,000 in their general fund and around $6 million dollars in the hospital reserve fund which could be used to off set overages. Should the Budget Committee decide to recommend a property tax increase it would take a 7 cent increase on the property tax rate to cover the projected deficit. They could also determine that a combination of property tax increase and use of available funds is appropriate. Whatever they choose, the Budget Committee will continue to hear requests through May with an eye on having an approved budget document to recommend to the full body in time to have approval of the County Commission by July1, 2018.

Source: K. Depew, News Director