The Fayette County Board of Commissioners first budget hearing may have sped along at a rapid clip, but commissioners came away with a good idea of what they could expect in the months ahead- a smaller work force and a balanced budget.
County Administrator Steve Rapson presented a rapid-paced slide show which just hit the highlights, but three things were definites- there would be no property tax increase, the cuts will not impact service delivery and at least one unit of county services - the marshal office- will see dramatic cuts.
Thus far in the 2013-14 budget the county has eliminated 32 full-time positions, shrinking their work force to just 706 employees and 13 part timers, dropping the county workforce 4.27 percent from 2013.
The economic outlook for the area, in a survey done of state and local government workforce trends for 2012, showed a 68 percent decrease since 2008’s downturn in the economy, with 51 percent shifting healthcare costs to employees. Fifty one percent have seen pay freezes and 42 percent have seen hiring
freezes, with another 28 percent feeling layoffs. Currently, 26 percent are raising employee contribution to their retirement plans and 33 percent show four straight years of hiring and pay freezes.
According to Rapson, the top concerns are the public perception of government workers, staff retention, health care costs and managing workload. He assured commissioners that despite the cuts in personnel, no services will be affected.
The budget principles used, said Rapson, were that revenues were conservatively projected based on an objective, analytical process of detailed trending; one time revenues were not used to fund current expenditures, thus avoiding pursuing short-term benefits at the risk of creating future funding issues; only current revenues are used to pay current expenditures so there is not a ‘built-in increase’ for ongoing expenditures; and there is a budgetary link between capital and operating budgets to identify and determine if ongoing expenses can be funded through the operating budget once the project is in service.
Rapson gave kudos to Sheriff Barry Babb, who stepped up to find places where the department could make cuts, resulting in a dramatic $400,000 lopped off their budget through paring down of personnel, negotiating better contracts for inmate medical care and meals. Additionally, Babb cut eight vehicles from his originally requested 12. Additionally, a week ago Babb announced the discontinuation of the county’s helicopter
One of the bigger changes coming from the new budget is the reduction in the marshal office from 11 positions to only three. Six of the eight employees will be transferred to new positions with the county, with at least two becoming code enforcement officers, another an investigator and the balance pulling jobs in the county water system, resulting in a $471,289 savings.
Not all the the personnel news is bad, however. The county has found enough to fund two new positions in Information Systems and the Water System.
Outside Agency budgets were held flat with the Senior Center adding $15,000 to cover natural gas charges at the county building. The Development Authority originally requested $338,793 totally, $55,000 more than 2013. Rapson’s office is recommending $238,036 with a $50K incentive for capital projects.
Additionally, environmental management operational costs of $338,655 have been transferred to the General Fund. Stormwater Utility has $500,000 to be used for infrastructure capital costs- with at least 93 percent of the capital being taken up.
Rapson also did a survey of at least 18 communities in the state with populations over 100,000 and noted that Fayette County still had one of the lowest millage rates around.
The county commission will hold its first public budget hearing on May 23, beginning at 5 p.m. and just preceding the regularly scheduled commission meeting.