The Jefferson County Commission continued to grapple with a budget deficit as they met last Thursday to focus solely on the budget problems. The first move by the group, in working with their newly-hired financial advisor Tim Stanton, was to vote to approve reductions of $416,505 that they had earlier reached consensus to cut. Losing out on funds are such groups as the local libraries, the Solid Waste Authority, the Partnership for Affordable Housing, PanTran and Jefferson County Community Ministries, to name a few. County administrator Debbie Keyser said Friday that those agencies should be receiving a letter soon notifying them their allocations have been cut or eliminated.
Harpers Ferry library director Gretchen Fry indicated that the library had received a check that was less than the normal quarterly allocation; however, there was no explanation of why the amount was less. Other libraries confirmed that they had not been notified of cuts either, but had read the information in the local news.
Of the $3.9 million the county needed to reduce to get itself back on the plus side of the budget, $1,205,729 still needs to be reduced, according to information presented by Stanton.
Stanton said that part of the deficit was caused by a reduction in gaming revenues which, he said, have decreased seven percent from the previous fiscal year. Some other areas of revenue were also down; however, spending more than the county took in has caused the dramatic crisis the county now faces.
Commissioners continue to pick away at the budget line by line to determine where the nearly $1.3 million will be made up.
While doing that, the group is also looking ahead to the fiscal year 2015 budget which must be completed before March.
Stanton presented the idea that the county use a method recommended by the Government Finance Officers Association, target-based budgeting, to determine their 2015 budget. Stanton proposed that the entire budget be cut by 25 percent and has asked all departments to provide five "decision packages" showing what would be added back in to the budget, in five percent increments, should monies be available.
Stanton told commissioners that he expects a $5.9 million budget savings by suing this method of budgeting and that many of the department's "decision packages" will likely be funded.
Commissioners will hear again from Stanton at each of their meetings in January. They have decided to meet all five Thursdays rather than every other week so that they can continue to work to solve the budget deficit.