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Could Budget Woes Be Fixed
With Operating Levy Or With
Town, County Consolidation?
by TaLonne Mefford
     

Updated on Wednesday*:

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Calhoun county commission met Monday, 9 a.m., in the Calhoun Courthouse little courtroom.

In discussing a review of the budget control report for July, administrative assistant Danielle Stevens said, “No problems yet, but there will be.”

The State of West Virginia taxes coal in each county, as either mineable or unmineable, which determines the tax rate. Calhoun has no mineable coal due to depth and location. The state charged 1,666 accounts as mineable, rather than unmineable. A motion to exonerate the tax tickets was approved. The inaccuracy will cause a deficit of $13,000 to $15,000 in the budget.

County clerk Richard Kirby gave a gloomy forecast for the budget: “As we discussed, there are very few good things to discuss.”

When asked about a projection for the 2011-12 fiscal year, Kirby said, “You’re not going to do anything but cover courthouse costs and lay a bunch of people off.”

With a predicted shortfall of $200,000, even with layoffs, the deficit would be difficult to cover. Kirby said that the overall package for a worker is less than $50,000, and more than three people would need to be laid off, which he said is not feasible.

Citing similar troubles in Wirt County, Kirby suggested the possibility of an operating levy. A second, more controversial option would be to consolidate the town of Grantsville and the county of Calhoun.

Good things were: The worthless checks fund of about $14,000 will pay for an audit of magistrate court, which is estimated to cost around $10,000; and delinquent land money, which has not been used in a couple of years, can be divided by the sheriff’s office, with the commission getting up to $30,000. The money could cover a special prosecuting attorney’s fees and the coal exonerations.

At the last meeting, the commission cut $4,000 out of the budget due to carryover. According to Kirby, the budget cut is not going to help long-term, and will barely cover the carryover.

“There’s not going to be any money there to give the elected officials back the money that was cut out of their budgets or anybody else. Quite honestly, I thought we would have a good year this year,” said Kirby, “but it’s not going to be a good year. There could be some problems getting through.”

One item of projected loss lies with money budgeted for oil and gas severance. Kirby said that the oil and gas industry was down this year, and will be even more so next year, affecting the tax income enough that the county “could lose a couple hundred thousand dollars fairly easy and nothing to make up for that.”

He said that no known state action could help with this deficit.

The budget for the county park only covers half a year’s worth of expenses. Layoffs are possible due to lack of funds. Commissioner Bob Weaver said, “At this point in time, we are obligated to constitutionally keep the elected officials’ offices in operation. The county park is optional.”

Richard Morris appealed to the commission in regards to an issue with his taxes. Prosecuting attorney Rocky Holmes looked over the matter and concluded that it is the responsibility of the taxpayer to ensure all taxes are paid, even if mistakes were made in the courthouse.

Mark Edwards requested permission for the AlderWood Event campground in Chloe to be used for an Oktoberfest celebration, in which alcohol would be served.

Holmes presented two issues of concern: security and profit. Security would need to be present to enforce state alcohol laws. It is uncertain whether the county or Edwards would provide security.

The second concern is with profit in determining what percentage would go to the county. Holmes requested to table the issue until the next meeting in hopes he will have contact with Edwards to discuss the issues.

The commission received the first bill from Holmes for close to $1,800. The prosecutor will have to request more money for the budget to receive payment.

EMS director Josh Johnson requested a release of levy funds for the EMS audit, due on Aug. 16. EMS has already borrowed $20,000 to keep operating. A motion to release levy funds to the EMS, contingent on completing the audit in a timely manner, was approved.

A representative of OES director Kathy Wood reported the propagation study for the south tower site on Jake’s Fork is completed. This site is intended to provide coverage to the Roane County line, the Leatherbark area, Hur, and Annamoriah.

The emergency planning committee received a $1,000 grant to make the public aware that an emergency planning committee exists and what the emergency plans are for the county.

In other business, a pay raise using 911 funding was approved for Gary Buchanan, William Shock was reappointed to the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Dept., and Steven Sams’ resignation from the building commission was approved.

Kirby gave a report for the special election. An equipment test is planned Friday at 4 p.m., contingent on the receipt of the equipment. The number of poll workers for the special election, three Democrats and two Republicans, was approved.

The Summer Youth Program met all standards, with no incidents to report. Participants completed work at Upper West Fork Park, including painting the stage and buildings.

Dale Cunningham of West Central Beekeeping Association requested funding of $2,500, which was denied due to lack of money.

Tim Meeks of Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Council discussed seven properties involved in the Hazard Mitigation Grant. Two elected to drop out, three accepted the county’s offers, and two had their own appraisals done.

The two that had their own appraisals completed asked for an alternate offer by the county. The commission entered into an executive session from 10:37 to 10:42, and decided to present an alternative offer at a higher amount.

A grant for air conditioning at the courthouse can move forward once the contract has been looked over and approved by Holmes. The courthouse security grant contract was approved and signed.

Resolutions to pass five partnership grants for Grantsville VFD, Upper West Fork VFD, Upper West Fork Park, Calhoun County Park, and Arnoldsburg VFD were approved.

The next county commission meeting will be held Tuesday, Aug. 31, 9 a.m., to canvass the election. The next regularly scheduled meeting will be held Monday, Sept. 13, at 9 a.m.

This Week's Editorial:

By Helen Morris:

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