CPA's Budget Analysis Confirms County's Grim Forecast

County officials have been warned about a tough budget year in 2018 and an analysis by the certified public accountant firm of Hochschild Bloom & Company confirmed it Tuesday.

Tammy Alsop spoke to commissioners and other county officials present. Alsop first spoke to county officials Aug. 15 as a recommendation from Peoples Bank.

Alsop's analysis didn't reveal anything county officials do not already know; however, it did paint a bleak picture and leaves the county with few options to not only balance the budget but also dig out of what the State Auditor's Office says is $800,000 of debt.

Alsop presented few options that county officials would consider appealing. She said most of the county’s general revenue budget is tied up in salaries — around 60 percent according to an analysis by the Independent News.

“You can cut hours, cut people down to four days a week,” Alsop said, also noting the county is on a hiring freeze.

Alsop said the county cannot legally budget a deficit and suggested a promissory note or tax anticipation loan to satisfy the requirement.

County Clerk John Martin said later the county is not going “to borrow its way out of a deficit.”

According to Alsop, the road districts, which operate on a separate tax, are running “bare bones” on equipment.

Overall, “it’s not too different from what you guys came up with,” she said.

Presiding Commissioner Leo Sanders said the county needs more revenue. Alsop said perhaps once the county has shown it’s done everything it can to cut back, voters would go for an increase.

2018

Some county officials are wondering what’s going to happen and Sanders allowed that cutting hours could be something that’s looked at. He said he couldn’t answer if another sales tax increase will be sought. Sanders said he has asked various state officers for budgetary advice or options and has not received a response.

“We’re open to any and all suggestions,” he said.

Martin said budget discussions will begin the first week of December. The county will have issues finding the same cost-cutting measures taken last year. A countywide hiring freeze was put in place, except on a case-by-case basis.

In April 2016, commissioners disallowed health insurance benefits for employees’ spouses and ceased payouts for their children as well. Road districts partially reimbursed the general revenue for their health insurance.

Martin shifted money from his elections budget to cover for trial expenses, but that money will be moved back to cover three elections in 2018.

LEO Tax

A more robust law enforcement tax has been discussed a few times in the last 12 months, but talks have never seriously advanced.

Sheriff Darin Layman told commissioners a law enforcement tax wouldn’t be enough to support his department alone.

There already is a law enforcement tax in place that goes towards paying off the jail. It is set to expire in 2021.

Sullivan Independent News

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