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Commissioners Still
Talk About Budget Problems
by TaLonne Mefford
     

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Calhoun county commission met Tuesday at 4 p.m. in the Courthouse little courtroom to discuss options for correcting current and future budget problems.

According to the commissioners, there is a 2011-12 financial crisis linked to decreased state funding from oil and gas severance and other sources.

Excluding pass-through and mandated funding, the budget $1.3 million, which is used to provide services for the operation of county offices, which are maintained by about 14 employees, excluding 911 services, which are funded mostly from designated state funds.

Past and current problem is funding the regional jail bill. It was estimated that the annual jail bill could exceed the budgeted $120,000 by as much as $100,000.

According to commissioners, over the past two years, they have virtually eliminated discretionary spending, in some cases unable to fund longtime public services. They claim to have eliminated pay raises and reduced health care benefits to county employees.

The commission is required to balance the budget within three percent, with no deficit spending. Commissioners said the taxes that county citizens pay would likely increase.

Prosecuting attorney Rocky Holmes presented several options that he said could be solutions for the current and future budget problems.

Holmes said his office is paying for access to West Virginia code books, but the Supreme Court provides the office with two current code books each year. He suggested eliminating access to the code books, which could save upwards of $3,000.

He also suggested raising taxes on property, mineral rights, and free utilities. He would like to see an increase for daily home confinement fees from $8/day to $10/day. He also suggested a jail levy bill to cover the cost of the regional jail bill.

Rick Postalwait suggested a corrections levy bill that would cover the costs of the regional jail bill and Bob Groves’ salary.

An operating levy was also put forward. Carl Ballangee suggested making the county citizens aware of the problem and the solutions needed to fix it, so the voters can make an informed decision on an operating levy election.

Commissioner Bob Weaver asked Holmes about the legality of having a four-day week at the courthouse. Holmes said there should be no problems with   this change. Weaver suggested that the courthouse stay open five days a week, but workers would rotate on a four-day work week.

Commissioners said their last resort would be to reduce health care benefits for employees.

When the budget is created in March, the commissioners must find and implement solutions for these problems.

The meeting adjourned at 5:21.

 

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