ASHVILLE — County commissioners are drawing closer to a resolution for the Fiscal Year 2013 budget.
At a special work session held Monday afternoon, the county commission debated places to cut to balance the budget for the next year, which begins Oct. 1. The commission has its regular work session — scheduled for today at 2 p.m. in Ashville — before the regular meeting Tuesday, where passage of the budget will be required.
Chief Financial Officer Donna Wood informed the commission that the projected shortfall — originally close to $1 million — is closer to $400,000.
“I want to say, I appreciate the commission being good stewards of the money,” Wood said. “It’s not easy cutting things. It’s never easy.”
Commissioners spent much of the two hours on Monday thinking of ways to reclassify certain personnel on the county payroll, including the county license inspector, the county’s floodplain manager and the planner position in the Emergency Management Agency. Commission chairman Stan Batemon said he sees “some value” in those positions, and proposed eliminating the positions, then offering those people contracts to stay with the county at a diminished salary.
“I’m not in favor of laying anybody off as long as we have money in our fund balances,” Batemon said. “I can’t get over that. I’m trying to figure out a way to save people’s jobs.”
Commissioner Paul Manning said he was willing to keep those positions on if the rest of the commission supported it. He cautioned, however, that the current financial situation for the county is not likely to improve before FY 2014.
“Twelve months is going to be here quickly,” Manning said. “If we don’t deal with it now, we’ll be here looking at it again a year from now.”
Wood estimated a savings of around $31,000 if the positions were converted to contracts.
“I don’t think we’re kicking the can down the road by putting it off a year,” Batemon said. “I think if we closely monitor those positions, we’ll have a better idea of what we can do a year from now.”
Manning also recommended a hiring and promotion freeze for county personnel for the next 12 months.
“I think we can require all officials to come to us and ask about all new hires and replacement hires,” Batemon said.
Much of the budget shortfall, according to Batemon, is tied up in the county’s purchase of water from the Coosa Valley Water Supply District.
“If we’re able to sell that water, we’d be pretty close to a balanced budget,” he said.
Manning said he wanted to review the budget again to look for potential cuts.
“I want us to be in shape to have our fund balance as great as possible to fund the most needed things,” Manning said. “The most needed thing is jobs. … I don’t like the idea of spending more money, unless it’s a needed project.”