County looks to cut budget

Published 10:41 am Friday, January 9, 2009

For the second year in a row, Lawrence County officeholders may be asked to tighten their belts by 15 percent.

The Lawrence County Commission Thursday agreed to forward a copy of its proposed 2009 budget to other officeholders to get their input before adopting a final spending plan and that plan includes a 15 percent cut from 2008 original appropriations.

“The sooner we get it in place the sooner officeholders can deal with what the funds are,” Commissioner Jason Stephens said. “So we’re going to go ahead and pass it out.”

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The cuts, Commissioner Doug Malone, are in keeping with what taxpayers expect of county government.

“I think the people have spoken pretty clearly, they want to see us cut (spending) before any tax increase. We’ve just got to make the county run like a business.”

The proposed budget is based on estimated revenues of $12,880,270 and a carryover of $409,299 from the year just ending, meaning total available funds are expected to amount to $13,289,569.

Subtracting $13,089,569 in appropriations, the county general fund should be left with $200,000 to carry from 2009 into 2010.

Stephens said the county will likely have $665,000 less to work with in 2009 than in 2008, owing in part to decreased interest income on county investments and reduced sales taxes, both the result of the economic downturn.

Lawrence County Treasurer Stephen Dale Burcham said he thinks “it will be a struggle” for the county to make $300,000-$400,000 on its investments this year.

At the start of 2008, county officials had anticipated making $700,000 but that was altered in the fall of 2008 when the economic downturn forced a reduction in the prime rate.

The 2008 interest income was nearly a quarter of a million dollars less than the amount collected in 2007.

“It’s going to be a challenge to get interest income in the coming year,” Burcham said.

The budget will likely be approved later this month — a temporary spending proposal was approved late last year.

Commissioner Les Boggs said he wanted to study the plan since he was not involved in drafting it.

The commission will have its organizational meeting Monday at 9:30 a.m.

At that time, commissioners will elect a new commission president and set their regular meeting time.