MOUNT VERNON — County budget cutting is under way, according to the Knox County Commissioners. The officials have been receiving proposed cuts from county departments aiming for an end-of-the-month deadline established June 15, when the commissioners asked all departments receiving money from the county’s general fund to scale back their appropriations by 9 percent. A final summary meeting will be held for all affected departments on Monday.
One difficulty that has needed clarification for some is an understanding of just how the county’s money flows. None of the departments involved will be required to write a check to the county. Rather, the county allows each governmental department a certain amount of money to spend each year. This amount is earmarked, or appropriated, by the commissioners for the department, but is based upon projections of revenue the county believes it will receive from property taxes, sales taxes and other such sources.
This appropriated money is not in the county’s coffers as a lump sum at any time and is not given directly to the departments. Rather, the departments issue purchase orders for their expenses, and the purchase orders are paid by the county. The commissioners have asked departments to cut 9 percent from their budgets because the county’s cash flow has dried up, thanks to lower-than-expected property and sales tax revenues.
According to Commissioner Allen Stockberger, sales tax revenues had been down earlier this year, but began showing signs of recovery when disappointing semiannual tax figures came in, leading to the current belt-tightening. He said that no departments have to pay anything back, but simply that they must cut expenditures because the money may not be there in the general fund to pay for each department’s bills. He added that the current economic situation is so volatile that the revenue situation could get substantially better or worse by year’s end. If revenues recover, the cutbacks could even theoretically be restored.
The commissioners said that thus far, several departments have already submitted 9 percent reductions, including the commissioner’s office themselves, who aimed to lead by example by cutting 10 percent. Other departments that have so far submitted reductions are Probate/Juvenile Court, Safety and Loss, Knox Soil & Water Conservation District, the Map Department, the Recycling Center, Emergency Management Agency, and Regional Planning Commission.
In other business, Water and Wastewater director Ron Simpson met with the commissioners for his monthly project review. Simpson informed the commissioners of the installation of four signs required by the Environmental Protection Agency to alert the public that the county’s well field for supplying drinking water to Apply Valley and Howard is a Drinking Water Protection Area. Two signs will be placed on Pipesville Road, one on Millwood Road, and one on Sapp Road.
Simpson also did some research regarding a query received from a property owner in Mount Vernon who was held responsible for an unpaid bill from renters. The property owner thought that there might be an exception to that policy, but Simpson said that a review of city policy shows no exceptions.
Simpson also showed the commissioners quotes he had received regarding gravel supply. From last year’s prices, United Aggregates’ quote went sharply higher, while Small’s Sand and Gravel went sharply down. The commissioners agreed with Simpson’s intention to change current supplier from United Aggregates to Small’s.