With no dissent on Monday, the Jefferson County Quorum Court approved a 2.8 percent across-the-board reduction in the 2018 County General budget, which provides funding for most county agencies and departments.
“We've lost 15,000 people over the last 10 years, and we're projected to lose another 1,000 or so next year,” Justice of the Peace Ted Harden said of Jefferson County's population. “When you lose people, you lose revenue.”
Lloyd Franklin II, the Chief of Staff for County Judge Henry “Hank” Wilkins IV, said it will be up to each department to determine how to make the cuts.
“They can take different avenues,” Franklin said. “Some might lay-off an employee or they might figure out a way to cut expenses another way.”
The county has been operating with an $8.6 million County General budget this year, and the reductions would bring the 2018 budget to $8.44 million, a decrease of about $243,254.
Projected revenue for 2017 was $9.76 million while the projected revenue next year is $9.5 million, or $26,000 less.
The county's legislative body was offered three options: a 1.6 percent reduction, a 2.7 percent reduction or a 2.8 percent reduction; they chose the largest.
“I think the Quorum Court erred on the side of caution,” Franklin said. “We can't spend what we don't have.”
The reductions for 2018 will range from $319 for the county museum to $57.383 for the sheriff's office.
Other reductions to county budgets will include:$14,277.90 to the County Judge's Office budget. $14,472.85 to the County Clerk's Office budget. $7,195/97 to the Circuit Clerk's Office budget. $5,431.22 to the County Treasurer's Office budget. $14,444.16 to the County Tax Collector's Office budget. $18,271.67 to the County Assessor's Office budget. $3,987.72 to the County Coroner's Office budget. $13,501.06 to the Prosecuting Attorney's Office budget.
Franklin also issued a warning that future cuts are likely over the next five years with revenue projections being flat.
“There are some tough decisions that are going to have to be made so county officials better prepare themselves,” he said.
The reductions apply only to County General and not to other budgets like the County Road Department, which has its own sources of funds, and to independent agencies like the Metropolitan Emergency Communications Association, which is funded by user agencies and by fees collected on cellular and land line telephone bills.
Those fees have also declined in recent years.