CHARLES TOWN – When Jefferson County’s $24.3 million budget kicks in July 1 for the start of Fiscal Year 2015, the county will officially be living within its means, explains Tim Stanton, the county’s financial director.
With $2.4 million in funding cuts that include less money for public libraries, the Ambulance Authority, the Arts and Humanities Alliance of Jefferson County and the Historic Landmarks Commission, the county will no longer be dipping into money carried over from past years in order to pay current expenses, Stanton said.
It’s akin to a person who’s been relying on money in a savings account to shift gears and spend only what’s earned each month to cover groceries, rent and other bills, Stanton said. “This is truly a balanced budget,” he said. “Starting with the start of the new fiscal year, recurring revenue will match recurring expenses.”
Some questions remain unresolved. It’s still unclear, Stanton said, whether the state-level decision to give elected officials a 12 percent pay raise will affect Jefferson.
The county’s budget was sent to the state auditor’s office this week as state rules require. Counties deemed financially healthy would be mandated to provide the raises for elected officials, but no one’s sure what criteria will be used to determine just what equates to financial health.
Should Jefferson County get the green light to increase pay, any elected official still can turn down the increase, he said. West Virginia has given elected officials a raise in eight years, Stanton notes.
Stanton is continuing to work on a budget comparison that makes it clear just what has been trimmed from the county’s budget. He said he’ll post the analysis on the county government’s website, jeffersoncountywv.org. Money now in a surplus fund would be distributed as the commissioners see fit.
The FY 2015 budget gives the Historic Landmarks Commission budget $15,000 rather than than its current annual funding of $20,000; public libraries get $234,000 rather than the current $244,400; funding for AHA! declines from $26,250 in the 2014 budget to $10,400.
The Ambulance Authority’s cut of $338,000 seems steep, Stanton said, but when the county begins collecting the new $40 ambulance fee July 1, the authority should have more money than it has for the current year.
“If everyone in the county pays, it’s an extra $800,000,” he said.
Stanton said even as citizens voiced concerns about cuts, he believes most people in the county want to see the government spending only what it’s taking in. “Now we’re being fiscally responsible and not overspending,” he said. “I think the majority of residents are pleased to see us living within our means.”