County cuts unfortunate, necessary

Published 8:23 pm Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Disappointment, but not disbelief, was our reaction to the news that the Chilton County Commission is facing a $1.2 million revenue shortfall.

Not to act like a bunch of soothsayers, but us and many other county residents, including the commissioners themselves, probably could see this revelation coming.

Administrator Vanessa Hendrick said the shortfall can be blamed on a lot of little things adding up to one big problem. That’s understandable given the floundering national economy. Revenues from motor vehicle licenses and titles, the 4-cent gas tax, interest, severance tax, lodging tax, mortgage filing tax, business privilege court fees, probate fees and license fees were down in every instance.

Still, the commission didn’t have to wait until halfway through the fiscal year to announce the shortfall and budget cuts.

What’s done is done, though, and now the focus should be on a solution. Along with announcing the shortfall, the commission announced 8-percent across-the-board budget cuts. County departments have until April 1 to adjust their budgets for the remainder of the fiscal year, and commissioners said they will take a more serious look at income and expenditures before approving the next budget.

We’re glad the cuts weren’t more drastic. Increasing employees’ insurance costs and/or shutting down the courthouse for a day or two were mentioned as possibilities. Mims said whatever decisions are made will probably be unpopular.

So goes the task of dealing with an economic downturn when you’re in charge of an entity that wasn’t on sound financial footing to begin with. But we hope the permanent solution, like the temporary one, focuses on expenditures and not income. As difficult as it is right now for the commission to make budget cuts, it would be almost impossible for the people and businesses of Chilton County to shoulder a larger tax burden.