Carter County budget could get bumpy

John Thompson • Apr 10, 2012 at 7:29 AM

ELIZABETHTON — Carter County Finance Director Ingrid Deloach warned the Budget Committee of the Carter County Commission that there will be some tough problems in the coming months as the committee works out a proposed budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year.

Deloach told the committee Monday night that she had just finished her analysis of future budget needs. One of the toughest problems belongs to the school system. She said the school administrators “have their sharp pencils out” working to cut $1 million from the budget to cover declining revenues.

After the meeting, she said school administrators are not planning any personnel cuts except through attrition.

In the year ending June 30, the school system received $50.8 million in revenue from local, state, federal and other sources, according to the latest county audit.

Last year, the county budget was balanced in part by drawing down $1 million of the $8 million in fund balance in debt service. Deloach said that could not be done again. That means the tax rate must be adjusted upward for debt service.

According to an information sheet Deloach passed to the committee members, the largest requests for increases from the General Fund come from the sheriff’s department and the jail. An additional $428,507.62 is requested for the sheriff’s department, bringing the total local funding from $3.2 million to $3.6 million. The requested increase for the jail is $213,461. That would increase jail funding from $3.4 million to $3.6 million.

The largest increase from outside agencies is Carter County 911, which is requesting a $97,145 increase. That would increase county funding for the emergency communications agency from $76,712.50 to $173,858.50.

The 911 request is spurred by the state 911 board, which has classified the local agency as “at risk” financially. The requested funding is intended to cover increased local costs over the years that have not been adequately funded. Most of the money is to cover personnel costs. Local 911 chairman Matt Bailey is also proposing the county change budgeting a line item for 911 from outside agencies to contracted services in order to make sure future personnel pay and benefits increases are met.

On matters involving the current year, the committee accepted several budget amendments Monday and will recommend the County Commission approve them at next week’s meeting.

The amendments included two for the school system, including a $319,552 federal grant to fund the Teaching American History program, and a transfer of $98,257 from reserves to pay for the installation of a kitchen stove hood system at Unaka Elementary. With the installation, all of the county schools will be in compliance with requirements for the hoods.

The delay in opening the jail could once again help the sheriff’s department with funding needs. Since additional jailers were not hired until recently, the money that would have gone into their salaries has not been needed. Some of the money has been used to install floor covering in the corridors and administrative sections of the new jail and for 42 new security cameras. In his latest request Monday, Sheriff Chris Mathes requested that another $120,000 be transferred from the unused salaries and used to purchase new patrol vehicles for the department.

A transfer of funds from clerical personnel to other contracted services for $15,000 was requested by Circuit Court Clerk John Paul Mathes to cover accounting services to be provided by Blackburn Childers and Steagall. The accounting firm will assist in improving reconciliation procedures and accounting functions to the office to comply with state procedures.

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