published Friday, April 5th, 2013

Jackson County, Ala., cuts $760,000 from its budget

Jackson County, Ala., commissioners are fishing for funding cuts and so far have netted more than $750,000 from four departmental budgets.

Now they're trolling for more reductions to offset what started out as a $1.2 million budget deficit.

"We passed four department budgets and there was about $760,000 we were able to cut from that. That was a good chunk of change," Commission Chairman Matthew Hodges said this week.

Those first cuts came from budgets for courthouse maintenance, the revenue office, mapping and appraisal office and the commission office.

"A few hundred thousand of that came from salaries and wages from positions that we've either cut or that people had retired from and we're not refilling," he said.

About $200,000 for courthouse maintenance "wasn't spoken for," so officials were able to slice it, Hodges said.

Some part-time positions have been eliminated or left unfilled, and a few small projects in some departments were cut until they can be funded under a balanced budget, Hodges said.

"There's a little more workload on some folks, but I don't think it's anything they can't handle," Hodges said.

Jackson County commissioners have been wrangling with a $1.2 million 2012-13 budget deficit. In prior years, deficits were countered with reserve funds, officials said. But reserve funds are thinning, and county leaders are looking for cuts so they can leave reserves undrained.

Commissioner Jason Venable said it's important for Jackson County residents to understand that the county doesn't "owe" the deficit figure. The "budget deficit" exists on the expenditure side of the last couple of annual budgets, outpacing incoming revenues and drawing down the county's reserves to stay even with those spending levels, he said.

"We inherited a budget that had more expenditures than revenues," Venable said. "The county still has money, but we can't continue at this rate and continue to have money."

Hodges said more cuts are coming. Next up for review are budgets for the sheriff's office, the county park and some other smaller offices, he said.

"I don't think we'll see as big a savings as we did in the first four, but there will be some," he said.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569. Subscribe to his Facebook posts at facebook.com/ben.benton1 and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/BenBenton .

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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