Commission may be forced to borrow more money

Published 9:36 pm Thursday, February 26, 2009

It looks like it hasn’t taken long for a national economic recession to make its way to Pike County government — it also hasn’t taken its toll lightly.

With a road department fund facing a shortfall that won’t even pay this month’s bills and a general fund following close behind, the Pike County Commission may have little other options than to borrow more money.

And the increased debt, should they have to borrow more, comes after working a $10 million debt down to less than $6.9 million already.

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Even though County Administrator Harry Sanders said very little has increased in terms of expenses this year, the commission’s income is projected to fall short $72,000 by the end of September.

“The gist is, the revenue we had been getting, we’re not getting right now,” said Commission Chairman Robin Sullivan.

Sanders said sales tax income has taken the biggest toll on the general fund budget, which is supported by sales tax, ad valorem taxes and several other small taxes.

From this time last year, Sanders said sales taxes have decreased by 12 percent, as have other taxes.

And, these decreases have led some commissioners to question whether they made the right decisions in passing this year’s budget.

“We gave raises when we really shouldn’t have this time,” said Commissioner Homer Wright. “That’s what’s gotten us into this.”

In budget planning, commissioners approved a 3-percent raise, as they typically do for county employees each year, bringing an extra $45,000 expense.

But, what the commission didn’t budget for was an additional $62,400 on top of the budgeted amount, $16,600 for additional raises in some offices and another $45,800 to replace two retired employees.

Though commissioners said they did anticipate having to replace some retired employees after they accepted a retirement incentive plan, they weren’t certain how much that amount would be.

In addition, commissioners approved a discretionary fund, that was more than $15,000 higher than last year’s budgeted amount.

Commissioner Jimmy Barron was the only one at the time to vote against the budget for those reasons.

“I didn’t want to see us get in a bind,” Barron said.

Even after these additional costs though, commissioners had planned to have a surplus of some $85,000 at the end of the year.

“It’s really no one thing,” Sullivan said. “Everything went up except for our income.”

Sullivan said there seem to be even less answers to road department funding, since it has had the same revenue since 1993.

Commissioners said they are at a loss as to where more revenues would come from for both budgets.