Reflecting steep cuts in coal severance tax receipts and other funding sources, the Letcher County government’s operating budget of $9,877,673 will be “really tight” for the next fiscal year beginning July 1, said County Treasurer Phillip Hampton.
Speaking during a special meeting of the Letcher County Fiscal Court held Tuesday to conduct the first reading of its 2015 budget ordinance, Hampton said, “It’s unreal how much how much it’s (total funding for the county) been cut. I thought last year’s budget was tight, but this year is really tight, really, really, really tight.”
Hampton told the court that receipts for coal and other mineral taxes are down by at least $1 million and said that he had worked with the Department of Local Government to avoid having the budget reduced by its office. He said the 2014 budget had been returned to be reworked because he was told the coal and mineral tax reemits had been estimated at too high a rate, and he wanted to avoid that this year.
In response to questions from District Five Magistrate Wayne Fleming, Hampton said the budget for the Senior Citizens Program is reduced by $50,000, and the sheriff ’s office is funded for $100,000, half of which will go toward health insurance and half to retirement. However, he added that all of these are line items that can be changed after the budget is made final through transfers. He pointed to the sheriff ’s department as an example, which he said was funded at $100,000 last year, but has received about $230,000 so far in the current fiscal year.
Hampton also told the court it can make changes before the second reading of the budget ordinance and final vote. He suggested the members take the budget home and read it closely and see if there are items they want to bring up for change before the next meeting. However, he also cautioned the members that there is not a lot of wiggle room, and said the cuts in state and federal funding as well as coal and mineral severance will make it difficult to manage.
“It is your all’s budget, not mine,” said Hampton.
Hampton said the $1 million in reduced funding not only does not include state and federal funding that has also been cut, and it also does not reflect the results of the poor economy, including the reduction in licenses and other fees, or in effects from the loss of coal jobs. He said that all county agencies will feel the pinch from the lessened intake of fees throughout and added that as the coal economy has declined, families have left the county and taken their vehicles with them, reducing the number of cars being licensed in the county. Hampton also said that with so many people out of work, there are a higher number of delinquent property taxes.
In other business, Judge/ Executive Jim Ward also told District Four Magistrate Keith Adams that he will see that the Blackey City Park is included for park maintenance by county workers since Blackey no longer functions as an incorporated city entity.