Whitesburg KY

County budget is down by 40%

Letcher County’s proposed budget for the coming year is down 40 percent from the 2012-2013 budget, mostly because of a loss of unmined minerals and coal severance tax.

After an unusually long wait for the state’s budget to become final, the Letcher County Fiscal Court this week conducted the first reading of the county’s 2018-19 operating budget.

The fiscal court voted unanimously to approve the first reading of the budget, and the initial draft now has to go to the Department for Local Government in Frankfort for approval before the magistrates and judge can make any changes. Any changes will be made before the court votes on the budget ordinance a second time. If approved, the budget will become law after a second vote.

County Judge/Executive Jim Ward said the process was delayed until the governor’s veto window closed April 26. The county received its information on coal severance tax receipts the next day. Ward explained the way coal severance tax funds have been allocated in the past, and said that since that overall production of coal and natural gas has dropped dramatically, the entire mineral tax receipts for Letcher County should be around $690,000. That amount includes $138,000 from coal tonnage and the rest, $552,000, from natural gas production.

According to documents supplied by County Treasurer Doris Jean Frazier, the county has suffered $4,021,322 in cuts to tax receipts since 2013. This is reflected in a budget drop from $10,715,134 in fiscal year 2012-13 to the current budget of $6,693,812. The proposed budget for the new fiscal year beginning July 1 is about $500,000 lower than last year’s, said Frazier. Frazier told the court that taxes from motor vehicles and real and personal property should hold pretty steady from last year.

In response to a question from District Two Magistrate Terry Adams, Ward said a $500,000 allotment for the Letcher County Recreation Center is from a line item put in place by the state legislature for debt service. Ward estimated that Governor Matt Bevin made around $500,000 in line item changes in his late vetoes. He added that the state took about $1 million off the top of coal severance taxes this year.

Ward said the budget should be back from the state Department for Local Government in three or four weeks. It must then be advertised in The Mountain Eagle for two weeks before the court can hold a second reading.

The summary analysis of appropriations for all funds from July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019 is: The General Fund (general government, protection to persons and property, general health and sanitation, social services, debt services, capital projects, and administration) is $2,865,045. The Road Fund (roads, debt services, administration, and other) is $1,751,782.

The Jail Fund, which Frazier said will increase a little because of the large number of state prisoners, is $1,100,124. The Local Government Economic Assistance Fund (LGEA), which includes money for general government functions, roads, social services, recreation and culture, general health and sanitation, protection to persons and property, debt service, capital projects, administration, and “other” is $972,861. The Forest Fire Fund is $4,000. The grand total of all funds is $6,693.812.

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