County department heads say staff cuts may be only option

Published 6:07 pm Monday, September 12, 2011

The hard reality of Chilton County’s financial situation is sinking in for those involved with the budgeting process.

Several county department heads addressed the County Commission at its meeting Monday, each repeating what was first stated by Probate Judge Bobby Martin: “I don’t know anywhere else to cut unless we terminate people.”

The commission estimated the county’s General Fund would take in about half a million dollars less in FY 2012, and developed proposed budgets for each department based on each of them taking the same percentage cut from their current budget.

Department heads, in turn, presented their own budgets to the commission. The total of those requests was about $333,000 higher than what the commission estimated would be available, so the departments were notified they would be given the smaller budgets when the commission takes action on the matter (expected to be the next general meeting, on Sept. 26).

Department leaders expressed dismay that they would be stuck with a budget that would force them to make cuts again, but commissioners had no answers for them, other than there is simply no more money.

“I don’t think we have any suggestions, but we just know how much money we have to give out,” Commissioner Joe Headley said.

Martin charged the commission with finding new sources of revenue, and Tax Assessor Rex Cleckler pointed out that his office has worked to keep the county’s revenue stable—and that property tax revenue actually increased by about $6,000 (to about $6.8 million) from 2010 to the current year.

“This is where the rubber meets the road. If we can’t do our job, you all aren’t going to get any of this money,” Cleckler said.

County administrator Vanessa Hendrick said property tax is only one piece of the pie, and all the other pieces are getting smaller.

Cleckler, Martin and Tax Collector Tim Little indicated they would continue to operate their departments as they had the past year—considering their current expenses the bare minimum—but may be forced to simply close the doors at some point during the year.

In other business, the commission:

•Gave Hendrick permission to borrow up to $400,000 from Peoples Southern Bank if necessary for the commission to make its October payroll. “We do this every year, and not every year we need it,” Hendrick said.

•Scheduled a budget hearing for Sheriff Kevin Davis for 6 p.m. on Sept. 19 in the commission chambers at the Chilton County Courthouse.

•Approved changing the fee scale for inmates housed in the Chilton County Jail. Under the new plan, law enforcement agencies other than the Sheriff’s Department will be charged $35 for the first day of housing an inmate and $30 for each day thereafter.

•Approved Davis’ hiring of Stacy Wyatt as a secretary in the Sheriff’s Office.

•Designated County Road 503 in Verbena as a road leading to a church, thereby adding it to Engineer Tony Wearren’s list of roads to be paved.

•Declared the Shelby County Juvenile Detention Center as Chilton County’s official destination for juveniles taken into custody.

•Nominated two current members of the Chilton County Airport Authority—Edwin Petty and Mark Conradi—for another term at the request of Authority official Keith Jackson.