County to begin planning FYE2019 budget Monday

Published 10:47 pm Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The Pike County Commission will begin planning out its budget for the upcoming fiscal year and officials say, as always, money is tight.

“Our budget is less than $17 million – and that would be a high one,” said chairman Robin Sullivan. “We’re not like bigger entities with more money to deal with. If you can save $5,000 or $6,000 in places here or there, that’s no much to some entities, but it is a lot to us. We pinch and conserve everywhere we can.”

One of the major ways that the commission has already planned to conserve some of that money is by reallocating certain funds so that money can be spent to resurface local roads and to pay down debt.

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Deemed the “24-month” plan, the maneuver is expected to free up approximately $1.2 million for the repair of local roads over the two years while another $680,000 goes to debt reduction.

Chad Copeland, District 4, worked with Russell Johnson, District 6, to craft the plan after the two commissioners were elected in November 2016.

“We sat down with (former administrator) Harry Sanders, (then-personnel director) McKenzie Wilson and (chief financial officer) Debra Gibson looked at every little nickel we could save, anything we could change or do different to pull back funds to pay for debt and local roads,” Copeland said. “The budget for local roads has been zero for forever … We have some of those that haven’t been touched since the ‘50s.”

Copeland said the road department’s $3 million budget has little leftover for road maintenance after spending $1.6 million on payroll and much of the rest on materials and equipment.

“Much less for paving local roads,” Copeland said. “What we tried to do is go outside of their budget. Some did come from savings at the road department by scaling back mowing and doing more spraying, and we’re still tweaking our spraying program. But we’ve made manpower cutbacks, gone with Rave alerts instead of sirens – all kinds of things that we’ve done to cut, it all paid into this to get roads paved.”

The county approved in July to advertise for of the four local roads to be bid for resurfacing, which Copeland said he expects to be completed in early 2019.

The roads include County Road 2243 from Warrick Creek to County Road 2246; County Road 2204 from County Road 2214 to County Road 2203; County Road 6629 and County Road 4413.

Copeland said the debt reduction is ultimately geared toward freeing up more funds for resurfacing local roads in the future.

“Trying to make this sustainable to pour so much into local roads each year,” Copeland said.

In addition to the plan, Sullivan said the commission will also look at other line items that had been previously considered last year.

One of the programs the county looked into at budget time a year ago was the Pike Area Transit System.

Although the commission ultimately approved to commit their portion of the funding at that time, commissioners requested more information to make an informed decision before the next budget.

As the new budget season arrives, commissioners have again requested for PATS Director Donta Frazier to present more data about the program to the commission so they can choose their best option.

“When you’re asking for $107,000 out of a $6 million general fund, that’s a lot of money,” Copeland told Frazier after the PATS director presented a new budget proposal in July. “ … I need every piece of information I can to give an informed opinion.”

The commission will hear from the heads of each department under its purview during the budget hearings. The budget will need to be finalized before October 1.

“All of our elected officials work well with us and have in the past creating a budget we can all live with,” Sullivan said.

The budget hearing will begin Monday at 3 p.m. upstairs at the Pike County Health Department. A work session will follow at 5:15 p.m. and the business meeting will follow that at 6 p.m.