Thursday, May 14, 2015

County approves tight 2015-2016 budget

Warns that layoffs could happen next year
J-E Editor

The 2015-2016 Fiscal Year looks to be a tough one for Webster County Fiscal Court. Magistrates approved the first reading of the budget for the upcoming fiscal year, with a caution that the look ahead is not good. That road could include layoffs and major budget cuts over the next twelve months.

“You need to meet with all the department heads and urge them to be very frugal,” County Treasurer Paula Guinn told magistrates.

“Or else we will be laying off next year, if not before the end of the year,” added Judge Executive Jim Townsend.

The $12,918,901 budget includes scheduled pay increases for elected officials, whose salaries make-up $457,628.11 of the budget, but does not include raises for county employees.

Those scheduled increases for the elected officials are the amounts recommended by the state. For the position of Judge Executive, County Clerk, Sheriff and Jailer the recommended salary that was approve is $82,752.12 per year. Magistrates will make $22,520.57.

“Your general fund money doesn’t go up unless you raise taxes,” Guinn told the court. “The Road  Fund has been hit big. They lost around $300,000 due to the gas tax decrease. We’ve also been hit big by the Affordable Care Act (ACA).”

Because of ACA regulations, the county is facing a minimum increase in the cost of insurance coverage of $50 per month per employee.

“We’re living on surplus,” Guinn said. “If we don’t find a way to cut money, we’re looking at making cuts. It’s happening in every county our size in the state.”

“We’re coming up on hard times,” said magistrate Tony Felker. “We’re using half of our surplus to keep the budget the same this year. We can’t do it another year.”

County Clerk Valerie Newell expressed some concern that the amount set forthe  employees’ salary pool in her office has decreased over the last few budgets. Guinn explained that the salaries included in the budget were based on actual expenses, not on the previous budget.

In other business, the court heard road bids for the upcoming fiscal year, which were tabled until officials at the county road department had time to review them.

On a lighter note, Roxie Rhea from the Webster County Historical and Genealogical Society told the court that while researching the 98 names that appear on the war memorial in front of the court house, she discovered three World War II veterans killed in action whose names had been omitted from the plaque when it was engraved in 1948.

The court approved adding those names to the memorial. They are:
•Carl ‘Cooney’ Williams
•Jack Thomas Scott
•Carlos W. Blackwell

There will also be crosses made with those veterans names which will be added to the annual veterans memorial that goes on the courthouse lawn every Memorial Day.

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