County continues to wrestle with balancing the budget
by Jack Latta
PRESTONSBURG - Floyd County officials continued to wrestle with balancing the budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year Tuesday, during a special-called work session.
The Floyd County fiscal court is facing a $600,000 shortfall in the coming year’s budget and is now faced with raising revenues or making some significant cuts. The court has examined tax increases to help generate revenues, as well as cuts to the jail, which has been the county’s largest expense the last few years.
During Tuesday’s work session, Judge-Executive R.D. “Doc” Marshall presented the court with two separate proposals for how to bring the budget into balance.
The first budget proposal submitted by Marshall included an occupational tax of 1 percent to be instituted countywide. Since being first brought before the court last summer, the magistrates have been soundly opposed to the idea of instituting an occupational tax “on working people,” to generate revenue.
Faced with the court’s continued hard line against issuing a tax, Marshall presented the court with a second proposal which called for greater cuts.
The second budget, from which magistrates are working, contains the following suggestions for balancing the budget:
“We’ve had now three different work sessions, and every budget I’ve presented, they’re not for it,” Marshall said Thursday. “We’re still working toward that goal.”
According to Marshall, KRS statutes call for the county judge and treasurer to prepare a balanced budget and present it to the fiscal court for approval. Thus far, all the proposals made by the judge-executive have been spurned by magistrates.
Marshall says that he plans to hold another work session Monday, and he hopes to have a first reading before the end of the month. The next fiscal year begins on July 1, so the county must have a second reading of an approved balanced budget by June 30.
“If we can’t raise revenues, we’re going to have to draw back and make some serious cuts to services that we provide our citizens, or reductions of some form or another,” Marshall said. “Tough decisions that we just feel we’re going to have to make one way or another, whether it’s cuts or increases.”
John Goble, magistrate from District 1, says that all of the judge-executive’s proposals call for increases in taxes, which Goble says working people cannot afford.
“We’re for trimming the fat,” says Goble. “The magistrates suggested cutting everything back a percentage. Put a freeze on hiring.”
Goble says the court doesn’t plan to replace several jail employees who have quit or retired, which should create some savings. He also said the judge’s office could stand some cuts, having the largest payroll of any administration. One suggestion made was to move the judge’s wife, Lois Marshall, into the deputy judge’s office, and removing the administrative assistant position. According to Goble, the staff in the judge’s office has more than doubled since predecessor Paul Hunt was in office.
“Basically, right at this point, the magistrates will come up with some cuts, that shouldn’t involve raising taxes and putting the burden on people,” Goble said. “We’ll find some cuts somewhere.”
Goble said suggestions from the last meeting to furlough employees and reduce park and golf course employees to seasonal status are not being seriously considered at this time. He was unsure if the magistrates would pursue freezing wages. “We usually do what the state does,” Goble said. “I don’t see us able to be giving raises in the shape we’re in.”
Discussion resumed once again to closing the jail and housing local prisoners in another county. Treasurer David Layne said he spoke with officials in the Department of Corrections and was told that Pike County could not accommodate all of their prisoners.
The county has seen its budgets continue to shrink over the last three years, as coal severance tax revenues and the economy have both gone south. Marshall says the budget has dropped over $1 million due to shortfalls of anticipated money from coal severance.
Coal severance money is expected to continue through this year, but Marshall says that the 2014-15 will likely require more cuts.
“The governor has said the next two or three years will have a lot of belt tightening,” said Marshall. “It’s not going to be enjoyable.”
Floyd County is not alone in its budget constraints. According to David Layne, Pike County is also having to amend its budget by 25 percent from last year’s budget to account for a $3.3 million deficit.
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