Committee to directors: cut your own spending plan

Friday, May 28, 2010

There's a consensus among Marshall County commissioners on the Budget Committee that county department directors must cut their own budgets to fit the amount of money available.

Typically, that will mean a reduction in spending by 5-7 percent, according to discussion at the Monday night meeting of the Budget Committee in the County Courthouse Annex where County Trustee Marilyn Ervin was one of two department directors present.

Freda Terry, director of the Office of Accounts and Budget, had been asked to examine the several county departments over which the commission has control and report dollar amounts after 5-7 percent spending reductions were made to the departments' budgets as approved last summer.

Repeatedly, Terry explained that payroll is the only place for a reduction in spending that will bring disbursements inline with revenues.

"We have one department that is nothing but payroll," Terry advised.

"If they don't cut payroll, they can't get there," Terry said of a Budget Committee goal to reduce spending to match revenue.

Lingering effects of the nation's recession have cut deeply into the county's revenues. While there are reports from Ervin that 92 percent of the property taxes have been collected for 2009, there are still delinquencies and sales tax revenue has dropped as households have less disposable income than before the housing market bubble burst.

"We're looking at several different options," Commissioner Mickey King, chairman of the Budget Committee said Monday as he acknowledged several county employees were at the meeting.

"We don't know what we're going to do," King said as the meeting opened and by the end of the meeting the committee agreed there should be a budget meeting with all the department directors.

King had aligned himself with a suggestion from one of the department directors who suggested cutting hourly wages instead of reducing work hours or forced unpaid furloughs. King is now discounting the prospect of hourly wage rate cuts.

There was no discussion of layoffs.

Budget committeemen, however, acknowledged variables that seemed appropriate when dealing with the county budget's spending plan. For example, the Sheriff's Department and the Emergency Medical Service refrained from buying new vehicles during the fiscal year that started July 1, 2009. Another variable is that the County Veterans Services' office budget is so small that cutting it 5-7 percent will have a negligible effect on the county's budget that totals nearly $70 million.