Fiscal court looking at tight budget
Loss of tax revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic has caused Boyle County Fiscal Court to immediately reduce spending for the rest of this fiscal year, and begin planning on a reduced budget for next year.
Magistrate Jamey Gay, who is a member of the finance committee, said the “uncertainties and challenges of putting together a budget during the pandemic” was going to be difficult.
After an in-depth look at the county’s budget on April 21, the committee “recommended that all budget managers immediately reduce spending to essential items only during the remaining of the fiscal year.” He also said they told department heads they “need to carefully evaluate personnel needs compared to service needs during the current shutdown.”
For the upcoming fiscal year budget, Gay said the committee also, “Recommended that all capital projects and items that do not have liability or function concerns, be removed from the budget.”
County Treasurer Mary Conley proposed that the fiscal court count on at least a 25% decrease in overall tax revenue for the next fiscal year as they plan the budget.
Magistrate Jason Cullen said it was going to be a “lean year, but we’ve got to prioritize, and we’re asking for a lot of cuts, and we’ll have some issues going forward.
Conley said families and business have many financial uncertainties, just as the county government does. “We need to tighten our belts, on behalf of the taxpayers, to make sure that we can move forward in a positive fashion.”
Making budget cuts now, “Isn’t a knee jerk reaction. It’s very important to have a strategy that we spend the county’s money appropriately,” Conley added.
Department workshop budget meetings are scheduled throughout this month, Gay said, including:
- May 5 — Sheriff’s Office, EMS and EMA
- May 12 — Solid waste/recycling and public works
- May 19 — Animal control and building inspector
The first reading of the complete 2020-’21 fiscal year budget will be held May 26, and the second reading and passage will be June 23.
Boyle County Detention Center budget workshop
The first budget workshop was held at the April 28 regular fiscal court meeting for the Boyle County Detention Center when magistrates looked at Jailer Brian Wofford’s proposed budget line by line and insisted on a compromise where officers’ safety equipment was concerned, instead of cutting it out of the budget.
Wofford had requested a total of $46,128 for new equipment at the jail, which included an industrial washer and dryer, a computer server, a printer, four hand-held radios, inmate restraints, other routine replacements and five ballistic vests, Conley reported.
“After the finance committee made a recommendation that we needed to do some cutting … I’m requesting to lower the new equipment budget by delaying the ballistic vests of $5,000 …” She also said the old server could be used for another year, and quotes for a new server came to about $7,500, which would reduce the new equipment budget by a total of $20,000.
Wearing a ballistic vest is a safety measure for deputies when they transport inmates to and from the courthouse and other locations, Wofford said. “We want to make sure that when staff goes out on transports, they’re safe. I think it’s something essential that they need.”
Wofford said the jail has a ballistic vest for “high profile” inmates to wear when being transported, he said. “I do not have any for my staff at all.”
“Well, we delayed essential things until next year for other departments. … I’ve never bought a ballistic vest in the 30 years I’ve been here,” Conley said. “I think everybody understands we’re going to have to do something. … We’re doing it in other departments. We have to have consistency across the board.”
“I can’t answer why they haven’t been purchased in the last 30 years. I’m just trying to do what’s best for the men and women who work for me,” Wofford said. “It’s a safety issue.”
“I’m fine with making cuts. I understand what we’re facing with the budget shortfall. But you know, I’m not going to put the men and women that come in everyday and serve, I don’t want to put them in any greater risk than they already are by not having these vests,” Wofford said.
Conley said, “I have sat through many department heads and budget meetings and I wish you could have sat there with me because everyone of my departments thinks they’re important, and I agree with them. They’re all important, otherwise we would not have them. And I had very passionate discussions with a lot of them… All departments are going to have to do this.”
Magistrates also asked if the sheriff’s office had extra vests for the jail to use, or if there were grants available to purchase them.
After more discussion about the vests, Magistrate Jamey Gay made a motion to keep $3,000 in the budget for the purchase of three vests, and Magistrate Tom Ellis seconded.
After everyone agreed, Magistrate Jason Cullen told Wofford to “get the best price and not use all $3,000.”
Wofford said, “I’ll try to.”
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