Jefferson County commissioners expect to have the makings of a balanced budget for fiscal 2019 by the end of the day Thursday. That’s a welcome change after hearing Monday that some funds had been targeted for uses commissioners didn’t anticipate.
“It’s not that we had less than we thought we had,” Commissioner David Carrington said Wednesday. “It’s that what we thought we had had already been allocated, primarily to the renovation of the 2121 Building.”
Carrington said the more than $20 million renovation will extend the life of that building by 25 years, but the timing of the project was different from what commissioners anticipated.
“We thought this was a 3-year project and that would have freed up the capital we were looking for,” he said. “It looks like it’s accelerating a little bit quicker. But the money’s there. It’s just how it’s allocated.”
Commission President Jimmie Stephens said he thinks work on the 2121 Building should be finished this year, though it could extend into next year.
Monday, commissioners were clearly surprised when told that the waterfall – the tier of distribution of county funds from the 1 cent sales tax – had been targeted for use throughout the county operation. Commissioners wanted to use $25 million of the waterfall distribution on roads and infrastructure and $10 million on economic development.
“The bottom of the waterfall was going to different areas as needed as far as the fiscal policies for capital and major projects,” Stephens said. “They utilized most of it this year on the 2121 Building.”
Said Carrington after a Monday budget session: “The appetite is greater than the buffet. You have a buffet there and it still doesn’t feed everybody.”
With that, departments were told to adjust their budget requests.
“We’ve addressed the requests from departments during budget hearings and we’ve attempted to prioritize those requests to those areas that affect our citizens the most,” Stephens said Wednesday. “Everyone has requests but those that impact the citizens – roads and transportation, public safety and the infrastructure – are what we prioritize.
“And, yes, we will be able to meet those requirements. But some of those down the line, not so much.”
Some of the budget requests that will be pushed “down the line” include “salary increases for a particular department, travel expenses or perhaps some capital improvements that really wasn’t deemed to be vital for this year’s budget,” Stephens said.
Carrington said commissioners would still like to find a little more money for roads and bridges. “That’s sort of what we’re working on now,” he said, “to see how much money we can free up.”
“I think everything has been satisfied. We’re fine,” Carrington said. “The question is: Can we accelerate some road projects that we’d like to accelerate?”
County employees can anticipate an across-the-board 2 percent cost of living adjustment in fiscal 2019, which begins Oct. 1, 2018.
“I think that’s positive (and) we’re paying all our debts,” Carrington said. “We’re in a totally different situation than we were five years ago. We’re not at, ‘Where do we cut?’ but ‘How do we allocate our funding?’ That’s sort of (a) nice (place) to be relative to where we’ve been.”