Cannon Warns Of Potential Budget Crisis, Asks County Offices To Scale Back As Sheriff/County Clerk's Budgets Are Approved
County Estimates Over $100K In Added Costs, Barely Paying Bills Now
Darren Doyle, story:
Increased jail costs of around $35,000 and a newly discovered state-required increase of almost 10% in the county retirement system--an extra $76,000 expense-- has slammed a bare-boned fiscal court budget for the upcoming year.
Judge Wil Cannon said at today's fiscal court meeting that the county was just barely paying their bills before local government dealt with the extra $111,000 in expenses, so what does that mean?
Just like any business or family budget, if your bills go up you have one of three options: 1. find ways to increase your revenue, 2. Cut costs where you can 3. Both 1 & 2.
In the case of the county budget, the only way to increase revenue is to raise taxes, or have a surge of incoming business and homes. Since the latter isn't happening any time soon, that leaves raising taxes, which Cannon said he will not do as long as there is even a slight chance another option will work. With both Sheriff Shane Doyle and County Clerk Kevin Alexander scraping their budgets to the bone already, forcing them to make more cuts is asking a great deal, considering the services that each office provides to Edmonson County residents.
Doyle presented a budget to the court that was very similar to last year's, which included one newly-leased police car at a cost of $7200 per year. He is already using part of the money not spent from this year's budget to purchase one new car.
He announced at the last fiscal court meeting that his office was going to come in around $60K under budget for the year, money that was saved by not spending as much on fuel and maintenance, thanks to the new cars purchased last year, and having one less full time deputy on staff for a period of several months. A deputy quit the office in May of 2017 and was not immediately replaced. Doyle took the former deputy's shift in addition to his own work schedule until another deputy was recently hired.
"I fully support the sheriff's office," said Cannon. "But if there's no money in the budget, there's just no money. If we all can start thinking of ways to cut back and save money, we can weather this financial storm until it blows over."
Cannon said he was making cuts to his own office, such as cutting back his secretary's position to less than 40hrs per week and cutting expenses on meetings and conferences. He said that Parks & Rec would be expected to finds cuts and that extras that the county saw in 2017 such as sidewalks, the Community Center stage, and similar projects would be suspended as well.
Doyle said he would never purposely put the county in financial bind and asked if the budget could be tabled until the next meeting, which would be January 8, 2018, in order for Doyle to comb back over his budget to try to find ways to accommodate the court; however, that couldn't happen because the budget had to be passed in 2017, and a special meeting couldn't be called within the next week. With the upcoming holiday, the court wouldn't have enough time to advertise a special meeting in a printed newspaper, which is required by an archaic state law that forces the county government to advertise in paper form.
After a lengthy discussion, Doyle agreed to cut the newly leased car out of the budget. He said besides the new vehicles from last year, the two other vehicles being used by current deputies share a combination of a busted steering pump, no windshield wipers, and a homemade kill switch, rigged to keep the battery from draining. The court agreed that if any extra money was available at the end of next year, they would reconsider his request for another vehicle and the sheriff's budget was passed in the amount of $582K, $135K of which is funded by fiscal court.
The court also agreed to approve the budget of County Clerk Kevin Alexander, which works differently than that of other county offices. The County Clerk overturns fees to the county, and based on the needs of his office, the fiscal court and the clerk's office approve those numbers. The total budget approved was $2,561,585 in receipts with $2,537,734 in disbursements.