MOUNT VERNON — The shadow of the country’s recent economic woes has finally fallen directly upon Knox County. The Board of Commissioners and County Auditor Jonette Curry made a joint announcement Monday afternoon that all recipients of General Fund money from the county are being asked to cut 9 percent from their 2009 budgets to head off a cash shortfall.
Commissioner Allen Stockberger said the county not broke, it was still doing better financially than most of the surrounding counties. But he said that shortfalls in the county’s investment income and property conveyance fees were both severely lower than projected. The first was hurt by a very bearish stock market, and the second by a sluggish housing market.
The good news, Stockberger said, is that although sales tax income is down, it is showing signs of rebounding and should end the year at a manageable level.
Stockberger asked all affected entities, which include most county departments, to submit a 9 percent reverse appropriation to the commissioners by June 30. He added that the commissioners do not intend to dictate to anyone how the cuts are made, although he said they would be available for advice and consultation on cuts.
“We do not anticipate any layoffs, but that is an individual department’s decision,” Stockberger said.
County officials in attendance, although not pleased with the news, quickly established that there were no obvious ways around this.
“What happened to the money that we all turned into the General Fund at the end of the year?” asked Trent Ansel of the Veterans Services Administration.
The commissioners explained that “carryover” funds were used to run the county while the new budget is being set in the first part of the year. Ansel was concerned because the commissioners had given VSA the go-ahead to spend money moving to a new building just a few months ago.
“On the numbers we had at that time, it looked like that wasn’t going to be a problem,” Stockberger said.
Curry said it would be better to go ahead and deal with the problem now instead of risking it getting worse later in the year. Commissioner Teresa Bemiller agreed.
County Prosecutor John Thatcher asked if the cuts are made and the cash flow improves later in the year, would the departments get any of that money back? The commissioners said revisions and adjustments could be made later in the year.
County officials, at Thatcher’s urging, agreed to meet on a monthly basis to review the situation in the upcoming months.