|County budget cuts continue|
|Thursday, May 31, 2012|
The Sumner County Budget Committee whittled away about $922,142 from the county budget at last weekâ€™s meeting. It was set to meet again in another Special Called meeting Tuesday evening after deadline.
The goal of the committee chairman and members is to cut enough out of an estimated $6.5 million to $6.6 million shortfall imbalance to create some wriggle room. That way it can start off the fiscal year July 1 by drawing on reserves and later replenish the coffers with revenue collections during the budget year.
â€śTraditionally, we have pulled out $3.5 (million) to $4 million from reserve and we make it up throughout the year,â€ť stated Chairman Kirk Moser. â€śWe have some commissioners who like to say we are robbing our reserve.â€ť Moser strongly stated again that is not at all what they are doing. He has made similar comments as every meeting and has indicated he anticipates future remarks in an effort by some to grab headlines.
County Finance Director David Lawing confirmed for Moser that in recent budgets the commission has been drawing from reserves and replacing the funds later with revenues collected throughout the budget cycle.
Members are also looking at shifting as many expenditures as possible from the operating budget line items to capital outlay accounts. They hope to find up to $1 million in cuts that way.
Part of the increase in this years spending is to fund a two percent raise for employees. That cost is an increase of about $515,000 in the proposed budget. â€śTraditionally, when we have given employees a raise, we donâ€™t give commissioners raises,â€ť stated Moser.
Committee members opted right away to recommend that County Commissioners set the example by foregoing a two percent pay raise. It amounted to only $2,880 plus any reduction in benefits but it certainly set the tone at the top for what other department heads should expect. The total cut from County Commission was $7,430. A $267 reduction in benefits would also seem to apply.
Commissioner Paul Freels complained about the slow pace of members dealing with such small amounts. He urged members to go about bigger items that they â€śneed to cut.â€ť
After receiving approval from the County Commission last Monday to shift funds for current year expenses around to modernize technology in the office, Election Administrator Lori Atchley requested her Fiscal Year 2013 budget be cut by $98,970 as part of savings from the upgrade. First year savings total more than the line-item transfers that fund the modernization costs. â€śMiss Atchley, I appreciate your efforts to modernize the office,â€ť said a grateful Commissioner Jerry Stone.
As expected based on past comments, committee members fell promptly to work on proposed increases in the Sheriffâ€™s budget by axing out $417,164 in salaries for jail guards, $118,278 from deputy salaries, and $69,924 for salary maintenance. Cuts totaled $605,366 or almost two-thirds of the eveningâ€™s work to reduce the budget to a manageable number. With the Sheriff on vacation, Chief Deputy Jeff Puccini submitted the Sheriffâ€™s suggested changes.
A county property tax hike is not expected by members at this time although there is background discussion of a move by some to try to force one through on the floor. That prospect remains to be seen. Commissioner seats are at mid-term and not up for election until August 2014.
The commission must also wait for the school budget to appear from the School Board and School Director Dr. Del Phillips. The county can operate, and has done so in the past, after July 1 on a continuing or temporary budget. However, it needs to get everything approved by the fall in time for state school funding allocations.
By Jesse Hughes