County talks budget
By Steve Herring
Published in News on May 6, 2011 1:46 PM
A tumultuous state budget that has changed on an almost daily basis has put the county's budget work behind schedule.
It will be June 1 before County Manager Lee Smith expects to have the proposal to commissioners who Tuesday morning set a public hearing on the proposal for June 21 at 9:15 a.m. in their meeting room in the Wayne County Courthouse.
"As the state trims, we are trimming. We are cutting back," Smith said. "We are going through the CIP (capital improvement plan). We will be making some changes to that. I think you are going to see a more exact CIP this year, but one that is cut back dramatically because you can't afford it based on these federal cuts and these state cuts.
"From our standpoint of developing a budget, this has been one of those years where I tell you I will develop a scenario in the finance office and it changes every single day because I get a different take from the Assoc-iation (of County Commis-sioners), Department of Revenue. Our revenue estimates, I have just never had them change like this."
Several of those uncertainties relate to education.
It appears that the state budget will reject recommendations that would have shifted school employees' workers' compensation costs, school bus replacements and tort claim costs to the counties, Smith said.
"But I will tell you, all of these things, I am not closing my eyes, but it does look like right now that the House budget does reject those things," he said. "Fully funding school enrollment, low wealth and small schools which is hundreds of thousands of dollars to our school system. We are going to have to watch that. (Schools Supt.) Dr. (Steve) Taylor is closely watching that."
Smith said that the state budget proposal also:
* Reduces community mental health funding by $20 million non-recurring and requires local management entities to replace another $25 million cut by spending down fund balances, again on a non-recurring basis
* Eliminates $5.5 million in state aid to county department of social services administration costs. Smith said the county had been able to account for that loss in the budget so far.
* Rejects the governor's proposal to reduce state aid to county health departments.
"I still think the Health Department is going to get some hits," he said. "We are just kind of monitoring that."
* Repeals $100 million in statutory appropriations for the Clean Water Trust Funds and appropriates $10 million instead.
"That is going to have a major impact on water and sewer projects across this state for infrastructure for municipalities, for industry," he said. "That means that local governments will have to borrow the money. That is going to have an impact because that means the water rates are going to be higher for industry and sewer is going to be higher."
* Authorizes counties to enact up to $250 for food and lodging inspections, with 10 percent of the fee going to state coffers. Counties will also be required to begin collecting the fee.
* Reduces state aid to libraries by 15 percent. That reduction has been accounted for in the budget so far.
* Eliminates veterans affairs funding.
"That is $2,000," he said. "That doesn't seem like a lot, but it all adds up.
"Before they were supported by an appropriation and now they will take what it takes to run that department out of the sales receipts, which means they are going to take a bite out of what they send to us every quarter. I cannot tell you how much that is because we have not been told."
The proposal to eliminate the Health and Wellness and Tobacco Trust funds while diverting the Golden Leaf Funds for the biennium to the state's general fund will cost the county $2 million, Smith said. The state is doing so even after promising it was something it would never do, Smith said.
"Like they would never do the lottery money," he said. "We know we are committed to $2 million this coming year for Wayne County. I will tell you if they do these it is gone and you will not get that. We wanted to use that for the CRC (Career Readiness Certificates) and Work Keys program and some other things at Wayne Com-munity College.
"You will not get that money if that goes through. The last thing is the lottery and I know what you are thinking, 'How is that going to affect the school projects?'"
The county will able to get $1.4 million to $1.5 million and will still be able to support an annual $800,000 bond payment for the projects, Smith said.
"The schools will lose the fund balance in lottery," he said. "They are going to lose $3 million to $4 million that the schools could have gotten, but that is frozen and I think that the state is going to eat that as well as another $1 million or so on an annual basis.
"(State officials) say for two years. I think two years that will turn into two, five, six, 10, 20. If you want to do schools, it is going to cost the taxpayers of Wayne County several pennies on the tax rate to do it. Bottom line we are facing a lot of stuff."