Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

June 13, 2013

Budget cuts

Shared pain in McDowell

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — Tough times often mandate difficult decisions. And such is apparently the case for the McDowell County Commission, which has ordered all county departments to reduce their budgets by 5 percent.

All of the county departments had until earlier this week to submit plans to the three-elected commissioners on how they would trim their budgets. Each county office was ordered to cut 5 percent from their budgets because of the failure of a proposed 0.9 percent tax increase earlier this year, according to Gordon Lambert, president of the McDowell County Commission.

Lambert said possibilities for reducing expenses included asking county employees to pay more for their health insurance. If financial conditions in the county were to improve, and available funds are more than projected, some of the cuts could be restored, according to Lambert.

Each county department head was allowed to make a decision on how to achieve the cuts in their individual departments.

“It was left to individual elected officials to cut back any way they could,” County Clerk Don Hicks said. “All of our employees understood.”

On the commission’s website, some of the cuts listed included salary reductions ranging from $200 to $450. County

In the county clerk’s office, employees would be offered additional hours off to help compensate them for the reductions in salary. The county budget is reviewed every two months, and the funds would be returned to employees if additional funding can be found, Hicks said.

County Administrator Jennifer Wimmer said most offices were cutting back on line items such as postage and supplies to reach their 5 percent budget reduction.

The cutbacks also will prevent the county from hiring any summer employees this year. The commission normally hires 20 to 25 students each summer to help with different projects in the county. The loss of the summer youth program — an important lifeline for many youngsters in the county — is particularly troubling.

The budgets cuts are unfortunate, but apparently necessary in order for the commission to gets its financial house in order.

One thing is clear, opposition to the proposed tax increase was evident by concerned county citizens, who flooded a public hearing on the proposal tax hike earlier this year. Without additional revenue from a tax increase in place, the commissioners opted to reduce individual budgets.

While this decision is unfortunate, it is the responsibility of the commissioners to balance the county’s budget. And in difficult times, everyone must be willing to make sacrifices.

It is our hope that cuts ordered by the commission can be restored as quickly as financial conditions allow.