Cuts and questions concerning the county’s 2013-2014 were presented during a special called meeting of the Harlan Fiscal Court. The court approved first reading of the budget during the meeting on Wednesday.
The proposed budget is approximately $18.6 million, with the general fund being approximately $6.3 million, road fund approximately $2.4 million, jail fund approximately $2.5 million, coal severance approximately $1.2 million, federal grants $615,100, bond sinking fund approximately $1 million, LGED fund $4.1 million and the E-911 fund $320,500.
“This is as close to a balanced budget we’ve had since I’ve been here budgeting with our current year revenues verses our current year expenses,” said Harlan County Treasurer Ryan Creech. “The judge and I went through every department with the suggestions made from each department and the court to prepare this budget.”
Creech said $300,000 was reduced from the road fund and the LGED fund had cuts since revenues will not be coming in to support them.
Creech added the county will only be able to pay $500 per employee for health insurance. He said deductibles may have to be raised to compensate for this. Employees may have to pay the difference.
Harlan County Jailer Curt Stallard told the court deputies at the jail are low on the county’s pay scale and they can’t afford to pay premiums for health insurance.
“I have agreed for the county to charge me $40,000 per year, effective July 1, for the commissary room at the jail in order to pay for employees across the county to have health insurance,” said Stallard. “Anything to keep the cost down for the employees. These people can’t afford to pay anything extra for health insurance.”
Harlan County Road Supervisor Marvin Goins said with this payment each year, employees can keep the United Health Care coverage they presently have.
“This would keep us from having to go to lesser coverage or higher deductibles,” said Goins.
Grieshop said his office has been working to keep costs down and discussions are continuing with health insurance carriers.
“Boys, this is done,” said Stallard. “I want you to put this on next month’s meeting agenda and vote on it. I’d also like to say I have under bid Knox County on housing state inmates and I hope to fill the jail up with a lot of Knox County inmates in the future at $20 per day. I can feed them cheaper than them because of our garden project.”
Stallard said the commissary room is where the commissary products are stored and sold to the inmates twice a week. He said inmates fill out an order form and the items are delivered to them after taking the money from inmate accounts.
“This creates money and this is what we use to buy our vans, weed eaters and other equipment with,” said Stallard. “I feel like to justify my employees and all the other county employees, the $40,000 we will pay in rent will keep insurance the way it is for everyone. I’m happy to be able to do this to help. I don’t have anywhere else I can cut, so this is my way of helping out.”
Magistrate David Kennedy questioned a $20,000 appropriation to worker’s compensation for the Committee on Aging.
“They can use that money for something else, not necessarily worker’s compensation,” said Grieshop. “Different counties help their senior citizens in different ways. We don’t put much in. It’s just to help them. The federal government has cut back and it’s just a certain amount of money that goes to the senior citizens center for various needs.”
“So, we’re just giving them $20,000 to do whatever they want to do with it,” said Kennedy.
Kennedy also questioned a $100,000 appropriation to the Appalachian ChalleNGe Academy.
“I can’t go along with this,” said Kennedy.
Bill Moore asked if any jobs were in jeopardy with cuts being made.
“The way it is laid out currently it looks like it may be three positions cut,” said Creech. “This $100,000 to the Hall School (Appalachian ChalleNGe Academy), take it and do something else with it and save jobs.”
Creech said the appropriation was put in the budget in the past for the ChalleNGe Academy, but was not used in this year’s budget and will not be used for that purpose in the future. He said the money remains in this year’s budget.
Following an executive session, the court returned to open court and reported no action was taken. The court then voted to place $100,000 back into the Harlan County Sheriff’s Office budget.
Magistrate Bill Moore questioned the whereabouts of $500,000 the county received in a court ordered decision several years ago.
Creech said the money is still sitting in the bank in an escrow account, “earning little interest” and has not been budgeted for anything.
Magistrate Delbert Stephens suggested giving each district $100,000 of this money to be used for recreation and drug prevention for children.
Kennedy and Magistrate Jonathan Pope both agreed with this suggestion.
“We had meetings about putting in a facility for the county, but the estimates came in at $18 million and we just can’t afford that,” said Grieshop. “Before the budget is completed more cutbacks will be made. The coal situation is not getting any better.”
Reach Nola Sizemore at 606-573-4510, ext. 115, email@example.com