County may increase debt

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Nothing’s been done yet, but it’s only a matter of time before the Pike County Commission is forced to do something only too familiar — borrow.

With tight funding situations in the county’s road department, most commissioners said the only option left is to issue more debt, even though they have been working to repay what was initially a $10 million bond issue.

County Engineer Russell Oliver told the commission Tuesday that by the end of this budget year, he anticipates being short $80,000. That’s even after some 40 percent of the workforce has been cut down through the years and after selling equipment.

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The commission didn’t approve borrowing any money in its Tuesday meeting, but initial discussion shows that’s what they’ll do come June.

“We have it in our minds to where we have to go,” said Commission Chairman Robin Sullivan. “We need actual figures or amounts before we can approve it.”

How much will be borrowed is still unclear, and it will have to be done with three separate lines of credit.

The first, will come to $916,000, but it will be reimbursed with state funds shortly after.

“We have two projects at no cost to the county,” Sullivan said. “We have to borrow the money up front to start the projects and get reimbursed.”

The projects, approved in the last meeting, will resurface a portion of Henderson Highway and repair a bridge on County Road 7708.

The next sum of money will be around $141,000, and it will be used to match federal grant money that the commission would otherwise lose.

The money from this project will repave County Roads 2276, 2290, 7755 and 3327.

And the rest of the potential debt remains to be seen.

The commission initially voted to issue a separate line of credit to give Oliver room to borrow when funds run out.

But the vote will be carried forward to the next meeting since they could not determine an amount at this time.

“We have to borrow enough to get through this fiscal year,” said District 5 Commissioner Charlie Harris. “If we’re going to do it, we need to do enough to get Russell out of this bind.”

Not all commissioners, however, were on board to issue more debt.

“I hear us talking about borrowing, but I don’t hear anyone talking about how we’re going to pay that back,” said District 1 Commissioner Homer Wright. “If we borrow, we have no means of paying that back. You just can’t keep borrowing money to get out of debt.”

The talk of issuing loans didn’t come before commissioners discussed possible ways to cut costs further in the road department.

Among them were getting rid of uniforms, outdoor cleaning services, cutting supplies and eliminating travel. But, the commission agreed to keep uniforms at least through the rest of the year and allow someone from the office to attend an annual workshop, since it has been done the last 12 years and has already been approved.

Even though they voted to approve the loans, other commissioners said its not done without concern of how they repay the debt.

With the road department’s only revenue coming from a state gas tax approved in 1993, Sullivan said he sees no other way to increase their funding.

“When you’re only revenue is from 1993, you can’t help but be concerned,” Sullivan said. “There is no other way for the road department to get money.”