MOUNT VERNON — The red pencils began slashing Monday at the County Service Building on East High Street. After receiving requested budget reductions from county departments that receive money from the general fund, the Board of Commissioners found nine departments which submitted less than the requested 9 percent, leaving the county over $400,000 short of its goal of $1.3 million. Commissioners sent out a memorandum to those departments Monday, calling for all nine to meet with them on Thursday to go through their budgets line by line to make cuts.
Treasurer Sandra Mizer requested a Monday meeting, as she was scheduled to be out of town on Thursday. With a total annual appropriation of $198,362, the treasurer’s office was given a target of finding $17,852.58 in savings. The treasurer’s salary, like all elected officials in Ohio, is mandated by state law and thus cannot be reduced without legislation. The commissioners also decided to pass over employee salaries until they saw what other savings could be shaken loose.
The remaining travel budget for the year was $950, which was reduced to $50. Many of the office supplies are covered by current contracts, so the commissioners also took $1,600 of the $1,671 left in that area. Hoping for no major breakdowns in office equipment, they also decided to slash the remaining $1,400 in Mizer’s equipment budget.
Mizer was concerned about the possibility of unexpected expenses.
“Do we know how we’ll handle it at the end of the year if we guess wrong?” Mizer said.
“No,” said Commissioner Robert Wise. “We don’t know that there won’t be even more cuts.”
The savings from travel, supplies and equipment, described by Commissioner Allen Stockberger as “low-hanging fruits,” amounted to $3,900, well short of the targeted reduction. The treasurer’s department does, however, have a fall-back, which is the Delinquent Tax Account fund. The treasurer and prosecutor’s offices, which identify and track down delinquent taxpayers, share a percentage of the proceeds gathered. The treasurer’s department uses it to provide the full salary of one employee dedicated to delinquent collections, and stipends to others who sometimes work on those accounts.
The commissioners determined that if a larger portion of each employee were extracted from DTAC, that would lower the salary line item, which in turn would lower insurance and other costs calculated directly from the salary line item in the budget. The commissioners believe they will be able to find a balance point that will make up the remaining $14,000, bringing the treasurer’s department in at the desired 9 percent reduction.
Budget hearings are scheduled to be held Thursday with the other eight departments still short of the budget-cutting goal.
In other business, Job & Family Services Director Roger Shooter brought Janet Shira in to meet the commissioners. Shira recently succeeded Gloria Parsisson as program administrator for Knox County Children Services. Shira said she is still settling in and getting to know the staff, and is looking forward to working with them.
Shooter also presented some state population estimates for Knox County, which show an increase in population of 8.85 percent over the last nine years. From 2007 to 2008, the most recent estimates available, the unincorporated parts of the county went up 0.74 percent. Mount Vernon had the largest increase of any incorporated area, growing 0.58 percent in that period. Only Danville dropped in population in the same period, by 0.09 percent.