County’s budget drops for New Year

Published 9:48 am Wednesday, December 21, 2011

With revenue streams down by almost $600,000 the Lawrence County Commissioners have approved a 2012 budget of $13,181,135, which is $982,437 less than the budget for 2011 of $14,163,572.

“Last week we met with officeholders to see where they thought they were and we took additional requests,” Commissioner Bill Pratt said at the commission’s Tuesday meeting. “We took additional requests and made adjustments to the draft.”

Right now this budget has a projected carryover to 2013 of $1 million.

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“One million is a comfortable level to sleep at night with if we have that in the bank,” Pratt said.

Among the adjustments was reducing the cut to the salary line item from 10 percent to 8 and a half percent.

However that reduction may not have that great an impact.

“Some (departments) have special accounts to transfer to make up the difference,” Commission President Les Boggs said after the meeting.

Departments may also reduce staff through attrition, increasing the amount available for current salaries.

According to the auditor’s office the projected cut in revenue will come in at $570,050 less than last year. Part of that deficit comes from a reduction in the Local Government Funds that come to the county each year from the state.

In 2011 the LGF was $1,055,000 compared to this year where funding will come in at $806,000. Also insurance premiums for county employees are going up 9 percent adding an expense of $250,000 over 2011. The remaining reduction will come from anticipated cuts in revenue from real estate taxes, cost allocations from the Department of Job and Family Services and even court fees.

“People are more and more indigent and they can’t pay them,” Chris Kline, deputy auditor, said.

The revenue from the county’s general fund comes basically from the following sources: property taxes, court fees, 1 and a half percent from the state sales tax and fees from the offices of auditor, treasurer and recorder. For the most part those three offices are self-sufficient with real estate taxes and one percent of the sales tax funding the courts, prosecutor’s office, the legal side of the clerk of courts, the sheriff’s office and commission office.

The remaining one-half percent funds the 911 dispatchers, the emergency medical service, the emergency management agency and the salaries for the sheriff’s road patrol.

On top of that the carryover for 2012 hit $1.1 million.

“The last time we were near the $1.1 million carryover was going into 2005 with a carryover amount of $1,009,022.05,” according to Kline.

“This budget is one I think everyone can live with,” Boggs said. “No one is 100 percent satisfied and will not be. We have haggled and argued to try to get the numbers where we wanted. At the end we came to a middle ground.

“This commission is very conservative. As it is the taxpayers’ money, we should be fiscally frugal.”

In other action the commission:

• Approved renewing a $136,045 real estate acquisition bond at a lower rate of 1.75 percent from Huntington Bank for money owed on the purchase of group home;

• Referred an agreement between the commission and the county fair board on borrowing $400,000 to build a new barn and arena at the fair grounds to the prosecutor;

• Appointed Ironton attorney Scott Evans to negotiate 2012 bargaining contracts at a rate of $125 an hour to supplement work done by Ironton attorney Mark McCown;

• Approved receiving a juvenile block grant of $10,000;

• Approved hiring Eastham & Associates for work on the Charlie Creek project;

• Approved a mutual aid agreement between the county EMS and Cabell County EMS;

• Received the weekly dog warden’s report where 39 dogs were destroyed; seven were sold; and one was redeemed by its owner. There were 92 dogs in custody this week.