Commissioners differ on budget ideas

Published 8:45 pm Friday, August 7, 2009

To cut or not to cut? That is the question Chilton County Commissioners are asking themselves as they consider the proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2009-2010.

The current budget, which originally totaled $17 million, was cut across the board by 8 percent starting in April. Now, commissioners are deciding whether to make similar cuts at the beginning of the year or wait until later.

Commission chairman Tim Mims favors the most conservative budget possible, which would factor in the 8-percent cuts immediately. He also fears a possible decrease in ad valorem tax revenue.

“That’s what we should have done last year,” said Mims, who voted against the current budget.

The commission held its first budget work session this past Monday, and will hold a regular meeting Monday morning at 9. They will likely discuss the budget in several more work sessions before reaching a final decision.

Other options include a budget that factors in only 5-percent cuts, or possibly 6.5 percent. Still, some commissioners don’t favor any cuts at all. Among them is Heedy Hayes, who wants to base the budget strictly on projected revenue.

“I think that 8 percent is a little drastic,” said Red Turnipseed during Monday’s work session.

Joe Headley and Mims see eye-to-eye on the issue thus far.

“I think it needs to be cut drastically,” Headley said. “If not, it’s going to be something we can’t live within.”

Allen Caton seemed to be pleased with either the less 8-percent or the less 5-percent proposed budget.

“I think if we stay with less 5-percent, we won’t have to cut the budget during the year,” he said.

Commissioners Bobby Agee and Greg Moore did not wish to comment on their stances until each had more time to look over the proposed budgets.

But commissioners aren’t the only ones who feel the pressure during budget time. County Administrator Vanessa Hendrick has the task of presenting the proposed budgets to the commission.

Hendrick said the county’s goal is to avoid borrowing any money for the remainder of the fiscal year.

“It’s going to be very, very close,” she said.

Some department heads have stopped spending out of certain funds.

Some funds, such as land management, severance and reappraisal, are very restrictive, Hendrick explained.

“We’ve got some money in there but we can’t use it except for certain things,” she said.

Hendrick, as well as several department heads and commissioners, say a 1-cent sales tax would go a long way.

She pointed out that the county receives a 1-cent sales tax but 100 percent of it goes to schools.

“We need more revenue. I know that’s not what anybody wants to hear,” she said. “I just feel like we shouldn’t have to worry about making payroll. It takes everything we get in to operate, and there’s no extra.”