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County expects deep cuts

A 10 percent revenue shortfall is facing the Morgan County Commission as it begins the process of budget planning for the 2011-2012 fiscal year, according to Commission Chairman Ray Long.

“It looks like our revenue is going to come up about $1.6 million short of meeting our current $22.6 million budget,” Long said. “When you take that figure and add in higher operational costs, the shortfall is going to be about $2.6 million, or 10 percent. Just to keep expenditures in line with revenues, it means cutting expenses by about 10 percent in our next budget, which will become effective Oct. 1.

The commission conducted a preliminary budget meeting on June 21 and will have a follow-up meeting on Thursday, July 7. Meetings with individual department heads will come later.

Higher costs of operations were reflected in an action taken by the commission at its regular meeting on Tuesday. It approved seven amendments to the current budget totaling $127,961. The largest of these was an $81,018 adjustment to a gasoline tax fund.

Long said commissioners will take a look at every budget item in every department at the next budget meeting,

“We’ll see where we think cuts can be made and pass on our suggestions to the department heads.” Long pointed out. “While most of our people are careful about staying within their budgets, there are always some items in a budget that can be cut. We want to be as fair as possible and find ways to have a balanced budget without cutting jobs.”

Long listed several revenue sources that are coming in under budget. They include TVA payments in lieu of taxes, $350,000; ad valorem tax, 130,000; and probate fees, $60,000.

“We knew this was coming because of the bad economy we’ve had for several years,” stated Long. “It’s never easy to pot together a budget with less money than what you had the years before. But the responsible thing to do is to live within your means. We don’t want a budget that is unrealistic and would lead to proration.”