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October 24, 2013

Floyd County makes cuts, still has work to do

No layoffs but still more than $2 million shy of budget

FLOYD COUNTY — The Floyd County Council accepted about $1 million in cuts Thursday, but without a majority consensus to raise taxes to account for the budget shortfall, some tough choices will likely have to be made by March.

Several cost-saving measures were approved by the council in an attempt to shore up an estimated $3.6 million gap for 2014, though next year’s budget won’t be voted on until next week.

The council voted to cut “selective services and supplies” expenses by 25 percent moving forward. Due to budget discussions that have been ongoing all week, Council President John Schellenberger said he couldn’t confirm the exact services or supplies that will be reduced.

However the cut should save the county between $500,000 and $700,000 next year, he said.

County Director of Operations Don Lopp announced the Floyd County Commissioners are requesting their 2014 budget be cut by more than $431,000.  The reductions include the removal of some software, planning and traffic light expenses from the commissioners budget, as well as capital cuts in the Economic Development Income Tax fund.

The council also approved a hiring freeze covering basically any position that isn’t funded by grants, with the exception of seasonal employees. If an employee retires or quits, they won’t be replaced until the freeze is lifted. Any department head wishing to make a hire must come before the council, though Schellenberger warned of making special exceptions.

“When you start giving exceptions, you just blow the whole thing out of the water,” he said.

While hiring has been frozen — or at least the funding for new workers, as the council controls the budget but not employment — those currently employed by the county are safe at least for now.

However, Schellenberger warned that the county likely will be forced to further cut spending in February or March when the state approves the budget.

Near the end of the meeting, Schellenberger said the council could vote or at least be presented with information about an economic development income tax increase to help offset the shortfall and raise revenue next week. But he added he would not request administrative officials prepare a presentation if the council didn’t want to consider a tax hike.

A majority of the council, including members Tom Pickett, Steve Burks and Jim Wathen said they wouldn’t support a tax increase.

“I have a real hard time asking the taxpayers to give us more of their money when we’ve done a poor job managing what they’ve already given us,” Wathen said.

But without a tax increase, the council will likely pass a heavy budget Tuesday and “kick this can down the road” until the county has no choice but to make cuts in about five months, Schellenberger said.

If the county does lay off employees, Wathen said leaders have an obligation to notify workers well in advance so they have time to look for a new job.   

According to Floyd County Auditor Scott Clark, the county had 350 employees as of 2010. The county now has 394 workers.

The number of those workers added to the payroll who are being funded by state or federal grants couldn’t be confirmed by the council or Clark during the meeting.

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