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Some departments hit hard in budget 'crisis'

By Staff | Mar 21, 2014

After weeks of budget meetings and discussions with individual departments and agencies, the Jefferson County Commission issued, via their finance director, a proposed balanced budget for fiscal year 2015. The budget sees significant cuts in many areas as the governmental body looked to trim $3.3 million from their budget, or $2.7 million excluding the contingency reserve.

A loss of gambling revenue and the need to eliminate the past habit of balancing the budget with prior years’ reserves led the county to the current ‘crisis’ as labeled by President Walt Pellish. Spending that has exceeded revenue in prior years’ budgets must now be remedied, not only in the next year’s budget but in the current year as well.

Proposed cuts to elected officials appear minimal according to the narrative provided by county finance director Tim Stanton. Less than five percent cuts are the norm for those who the commission says they are statutorily required to fund.

The Sheriff’s Department will see a decrease reduction of 4.62 percent on the law enforcement side with a 4.03 percent reduction in the tax office and 5.83 percent losses under the Dog Warden budget line.

The Prosecuting Attorney, who told commissioners his office would have problems getting things done with a suggested 12 percent cut instead faces a cut of five percent.

The Circuit Clerk cuts amounted to a voluntary cut of 2.38 percent and the County Clerk of 1.19 percent from the already revised budget submitted to help alleviate FY 2014 problems.

Those who are not mandated to be funded have been hit much harder with cuts up to 20 percent felt by some departments. The 911 Emergency Communications Center will lose 1029 percent of their budget which likely means a loss of at least one employee.

The commissioners showed some concern that by cutting the 911 Center, this would make the only county department that would lose an employee. A possible transfer to another department could be a fix according to Administrator Debbie Keyser.

Those departments who do not fall directly under the direction of the Commission, but are considered “contingency” agencies will likely see lay-offs. The Emergency Services Agency which provides paid EMS service in the county was downed by 20 percent while fire departments were cut by 12.5 percent.

ESA board president Alan Williams said that the cut will likely mean the loss of three administrative staff and three paid medics at that department. Parks and Recreation took a 12.7 percent cut which will lead to the loss of a park manager and a recreation coordinator. Treasurer Paul Marshall said that parks will likely receive less maintenance and work on new parks could stop. Fees will likely have to be raised as well, he said.

Libraries in the county face a 15 percent reduction which leads to an equal reduction from state funding. Funds from the state must be matched dollar for dollar with local funding. There could be cuts in hours and personnel at the three public libraries in the county with the funding cut.

The Development Authority, which is aimed at bringing business into the county as well as retaining businesses already here, sees a 12.6 percent cut to include the loss of the Agriculture Development Officer, according to Director John Reisenweber. He shared that the authority board felt that volunteers could step into the role of that employee to help with the budget cuts.

Commissioners must submit their budget to the state prior to the end of March. Barring any changes to the proposed budget, the group balances at $21,890,936 for FY 15.

The work is not done, however, as the budget for the current year remains in the red to the tune of $617,000 according to Stanton. More cuts are likely on the way prior to the June 30 year end.