County challenged to meet requests
Jefferson County Commissioners began the week talking dollars; on Monday they spent their day hearing from multiple departments seeking dollars from the county’s annual budget.
Prior to the session, all of those seeking dollars submitted written requests outlining their needs and justifications for the funds sought. Monday began the reiteration of those requests with in-person pleas and information for the public.
According to budget documents prepared by Michelle Gordon, the county’s finance officer, the governing body has received requests for approximately $27.6 million with projected revenues coming in only at $25.5 million, leaving the daunting task of chopping $2.1 million from the requests.
During a public forum last week, commissioners and their staff explained the budget process and shared their thoughts on the difficult task ahead.
“It’s often a hard decision. It’s painful but we will do it,” Commissioner Patsy Noland said at the public forum.
During the morning session of Monday’s meeting, the Commissioners heard requests from groups that included Jefferson County Parks and Recreation, who asked for an increase of just under $5 thousand to help fund a minimal salary increase. In addition, Director Jennifer Myers asked that the county continue to fund the scholarship line in the parks budget that allows children otherwise unable to participate in park programming to do so.
The parks also receive 45 percent of the hotel and motel funds generated in the county, and Myers asked commissioners to continue that level of funding, which helps maintain the over 400 acres of parkland within the county.
The commission also heard from those at the Eastern Panhandle Conservation District, who came to justify their request for $15 thousand that will be used for a variety of watershed projects and youth conservation education opportunities. They also shared an explanation of the efforts made to help save the county’s ash trees using ash borer treatment.
The Jefferson County Day Report Center explained their need for an additional allocation of $60 thousand to help fund another case manager in that department. The request brought their numbers up to $213 thousand for the year.
Director Ronda Eddy shared data on the number of participants in the program who had successfully been helped in the vivitrol program, and on those who have seen success in detox programs.
“We have ramped up our drug screening protocols,” Eddy said. “There are so many methods out there to hide detection.”
The Jefferson County Public Libraries, along with Charles Town Library, sought no increase from last year’s budget numbers but asked to be maintained at the 2017 levels. Shepherdstown Director Hali Taylor spent several moments telling commissioners all the libraries can and already do for members of the community including offering computer access and resources for any number of needs; providing meeting spaces; providing copy, fax and notary services; offering a haven for children to gather and learn; and providing traditional services like books, magazines and other materials.
These departments were just a few that came before the commission, with more scheduled for today. The governing body will hear requests for increases in areas of public safety that began with a $2.3 million request from the 911 Center. The funds will allow the hiring of six new staff positions in that department. The county’s Emergency Services Agency will also seek an increase in funding; the agency is asking for just over $250 thousand above its allocation of $2.8 million last year.
Volunteer fire companies will also seek an increase.
After hearing all requests, the Commission will schedule a public hearing where members of the community may come and make their statements of support for any given funding request.
The Commission will adopt the final budget and send it to state officials by the end of March.