Vance commissioners unlikely to be done with trims

Jun. 15, 2013 @ 04:43 PM

Differences from the proposal have been few, and so have been the cuts.

Whether the Vance County commissioners will dig into the general fund or slice into a proposed budget from the county manager is nearing a finishing line. It could come as soon as Monday night.

The commissioners will have a special called meeting at 6 p.m. to handle a facilities issue for Southern Vance High School. They’re also scheduled for a work session on the county budget, which must be completed on or before June 30.

Entering the final two weeks, and with 47 days since the first presentation of the budget, commissioners haven’t veered far from county manager Jerry Ayscue’s proposal. If anything, said commissioner Terry Garrison, they might have raised it a bit.

A request presented last week from the Warren County Free Clinic, seeking $50,000 from Vance taxpayers, is likely to draw debate before the budget is settled.

“I don’t think we’ve given to another county before,” said Eddie Wright, a commissioner since 2000.

But he added he’s not worried about setting a precedent.

“No, no, no, I’m not worried about the precedent,” Wright said. “A lot of our people at the free clinic are Vance County people.

“A lot of people don’t have health insurance. They need the free clinic because they can’t get to the hospital.”

He added a rural clinic in Vance County operates related to a patient’s income.

Garrison said the request is legitimate and worthwhile. He said the General Assembly’s decision on the Affordable Care Act is another variable in the equation.

Commissioner Dan Brummitt said he didn’t believe Vance County had funds for the clinic.

“Its not about the Warren Free Clinic,” Brummitt said. “We have to evaluate all the organizations, and we have to be conscientious about spending the taxpayers’ money.”

Brummitt and Garrison each believe more cuts will be necessary before the board can finalize a budget.

“My sense is at this point, we’ll be forced to do some cutting,” said Garrison, whose tenure goes back to 1988. “If we tend to cling to our initial priorities that there was consensus about, that there be no tax increase and holding the line, and also trying to limit the funds we take out of fund balance to balance the budget, those are two key factors that will drive how we actually finalize the budget.

“If we determine there is more revenue available, that may prevent us from having to cut back. That remains to be seen.”

A significant variable is the General Assembly’s decision on its state budget.

“They may or may not pass the state budget before we do,” Garrison said. “If not, we have to anticipate the impact on our budget going forward.”

Both have the same deadline.

“I think we haven’t made enough cuts yet,” Brummitt said. “The original budget relied a little heavily on the transfer of the general fund. And I think we need to look at doing some cuts, and trying to get that back in line. Right now we haven’t made those cuts. I’m concerned about that part of it.”

He noted recent investments in information technology, which should have led to greater efficiencies. Some restructuring happened, but he doesn’t see them as significant differences.

Commissioners seemed pleased to receive the budget by May 1. Some items were not quite finalized, but time was allotted for meetings with the county manager and with the new finance director David Beck.

“It gave people time to look on their own, and to look at certain line items, to see if they wanted to discuss something when we went into the budget session,” Wright said. “It did help.”

“We’ve asked for it, and finally got it, and we didn’t effectively use that time,” Brummitt said. “We sat on it for a month. It could have been time working on it together.

“Each commissioner has ideas they want to do, but it’s when we get together to formulate an opinion. There is some time needed for people to get up to speed, but most of what we’re going to do needs to be done as a board.”

Garrison offered a different view.

“I think we’ve used that time wisely,” Garrison said. “It was a very good gesture to receive it in advance. We had more time to review it and analyze it. It gave department heads time to come to us, and speak to us and make us aware of what their needs were. Likewise, the public has had an opportunity to provide input. It was very worthwhile.”

 

Contact the writer at awooten@hendersondispatch.com.