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Jefferson County Commission approves $20 million budget

April 11, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- After struggling to come up with an agreeable plan and missing a deadline to file it, the Jefferson County Commission on Thursday passed a budget of about $20 million for the 2008-09 fiscal year.

The commissioners have struggled for weeks to come up with a balanced budget for the upcoming fiscal year after realizing they were facing about a $2 million funding shortfall.

The budget passed Thursday contained many of the same elements the commissioners were considering recently, such as funding the county's volunteer fire departments and the Jefferson County Ambulance Authority for only half a year, Commissioner Greg Corliss said.

The commission has talked about implementing a new user fee to make up the rest of the funding demands for the two agencies, although there has been some concern over how quickly the fees can be implemented.

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The budget also includes a 2.5 percent funding cut to the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department and the circuit clerk's office, and a 3 percent funding cut to the tax assessor's office and the county clerk's office, Corliss said.

Corliss took exception Thursday to some of the criticism that has been directed at the county over the budget process.

Despite having funding shortfalls, the commission was able to pass a budget that protects jobs, including those that Corliss believes are providing better services to the county, like land planning.

There has been concern about the funding plan for fire departments and ambulance service, but the commission has $7 million in savings that would save the county from ever having to cut those services, Corliss said.

"I think this budget is a good budget and it's the best we can do with the revenues we have," Corliss said.

Commissioner Dale Manuel, the only commissioner to vote against the budget, took exception again to the commission's spending practices over the year, like creating 11 new jobs and spending $260,000 to reorganize the county's planning department.

Manuel quoted from a transcript of a commission meeting last year in which a statement was made that "money is piling up" and there was no need to go down a conservative path. He did not say who made the statement.

Manuel feared the approved budget does not have enough money for Eastern Regional Jail costs, electric and fuel.

Commission President Frances Morgan said she could understand Manuel's points, but said the commission is struggling to put together a spending plan as it deals with growth pressures.

Counties all across the country are dealing with funding shortfalls and considering fees to help deal with them, Morgan said.

The budget was due to be filed with the state March 28, although a state official said there is no penalty for filing it late.

There are no tax increases in the plan.

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