Meeting. Meeting. Is there a meeting?

Published 11:31 am Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Work continues on 2015 budget

The commissioners have two more meetings in which to pass the 2015 budget. If not, county employee payroll will not be met come the first payday of the New Year.

“If there is no budget in place, no payroll will happen,” Chris Kline, chief deputy auditor, said.

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As far as two of the three county commissioners are concerned that depends on what the budget commission decides as far as certifying more revenue. The budget commission, made up of the county auditor, county treasurer and county prosecutor, must certify all revenue before it can be appropriated by the county commission.

“It is very important that we get the extra money appropriated,” commissioner Freddie Hayes Jr., said. “If not, it will put us in a bad situation.”

There was a budget commission meeting scheduled for today, but it was canceled on Tuesday by the office of the Lawrence County Auditor, who is the fiscal officer for the county.

According to county treasurer Stephen Burcham, however, he and county prosecutor Brigham Anderson will have that meeting without Stephens.

Now the question is will any decision from that meeting be legally binding.

At their regular meeting on Dec. 4, commission president Les Boggs and Hayes did not vote on the general fund budget, although that vote was originally scheduled for then. Commissioner Bill Pratt was unable to attend.

Afterwards, Boggs confirmed that the commissioners were waiting for the budget commission to meet.

Boggs had formally asked the commission to certify approximately $500,000 more in the general fund.

Right now the budget commission has certified $10.7 million in the general fund. The two commissioners want that figure at $11.2 million.

The reason for asking for the increase is to provide funds to allow the county to move its jail to the former Ohio River Valley Juvenile Correctional Facility in Franklin Furnace. Sheriff Jeff Lawless contends additional funding is necessary to allow him to make the move in a safe manner for his corrections officers and the inmates.

Pratt has publicly stated he would like to see the sheriff make the move with his current budget and then add staffing and other changes when more funds are available.

According to Kline, the purpose of today’s budget meeting was to certify revenues for the special funds, which include the dog pound, EMS, 911 and the juvenile center. Those funds cannot be certified until the county commissioners determine how they plan to appropriate general fund money because they use that money to supplement the special funds.

Since that budget had not been approved, there was no reason to have the meeting, Kline said.

The original timetable was to pass the general fund budget on Dec. 4, the special funds budget on Thursday and use Dec. 18, the last day the commission will meet this year, to fix any mathematical errors.

Now if there are problems in any fund, the commissioners will have to call a special meeting before the end of the year or wait until their next scheduled meeting in January. Nothing can be spent out of that fund in question until it is corrected.

In interviews last week Burcham and Anderson said they thought it was possible to increase the certification because of increased sales tax, property tax and casino revenues. Stephens’ position is the budget commission is to certify an estimate of revenue that the commissioners can use without fiscally jeopardizing the county and that there would have to be an additional dedicated source of revenue or make significant cuts in current programs to find the funds for the jail move.

As far as a budget ready for Thursday’s meeting, Pratt said he is confident there will be a document ready.

“But I am not confident it will even be seconded,” he said. “I will make the motion. There needs to be a budget passed so this will be resolved by the first of the year. There is no reason why we can’t appropriate additional funding later if it is certified. The jail move is not going to happen until the first of July. It is not critical that something is decided at the end of December.”

According to Hayes, the possibility of passing the general fund budget this week depends on what Burcham and Anderson do.

“I am just waiting to see what the budget commission does (today), if they have a meeting,” he said.