County budget decisions loom

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Bedford County Board of Commissioners approved last-minute budget amendments Tuesday night and approved a "continuing resolution" allowing the county to continue to operate at 2004-2005 spending levels until a 2005-2006 budget has been approved.

The new fiscal year begins Friday, but the county almost never has a budget in place by that time. Part of the reason for that, especially this year, is that the county must wait for state auditors to estimate how much revenue will be generated by each penny on the property tax rate. This has been a reappraisal year, and the commission is still waiting for the total figures.

The school budget -- which is the lion's share of county spending -- is also subject to last-minute revision depending on what the state does to its budget figures. The county school board approved the fifth version of its budget request on Tuesday, incorporating the latest changes in state funding.

The commission's budget and finance committee will meet July 5, and at that time the committee hopes to have enough information in hand to begin serious trimming on the budget.

And trimming may be necessary -- if all budgets were funded as requested, and no tax increase was approved, the county general fund would wind up $875,000 in the hole. Commissioners say they will have to take a hard look at budget requests.

"We're going to have to start saying 'no,'" said finance committee chair Roger Brothers.

Extension agent John Teague appeared before the finance committee to ask for $4,800 as part of a paving project at his office, and finance committee members said they might not be able to help him. Brothers referred to a request from Hospice of the Highland Rim for a county contribution.

"Do we pave a parking lot, or do we help someone who's terminally ill?" Brothers asked, rhetorically.

Teague has $10,200 remaining in his building fund and wants the $4,800 to make a total of $15,000 for paving the parking lot at his new offices on Midland Road. The committee placed Teague's request on the July agenda for the full commission to consider.

During Tuesday night's special called meeting, the commission approved end-of-fiscal-year amendments for a number of agencies:

* Bedford County Health Department

* Bedford County Sheriff's Department

* Circuit Court Clerk

* County building fund

* County miscellaneous fund

* Jail, Workhouse, Juvenile Detention budgets

* Bedford County School System

The amendments shift funds from one line item to another so that no individual line item is over as the fiscal year ends.