Commissioners warn of future budget cuts
Each of the elected officials for Hot Springs County met with the county commissioners on Tuesday to discuss the upcoming budget and what it may mean to each of their divisions.
“We all know what it was like last year,” commission chairman John Lumley said. “We had to cut more than a million dollars. Where’s it going this year? It’s not looking good.”
Lumley told the group a lot is going to depend on what the county assessor’s numbers are for the year, but right now there is a possibility of funds being 30 percent less than they were last year because of the downturn in minerals.
One of the problems Lumley sees is with public health.
If the legislature cuts funding, there is the distinct possibility of losing a state nurse position. If that is the case, the county is going to be expected to pick it up and right now, we cannot afford to do that.
Marie McDougal, public health nurse for Hot Springs County, said Governor Mead is a big proponent of Public Health and fought last year to keep funding in place.
This year, however, she hasn’t heard anything from other counties on what their agencies are expecting in the way of cuts.
Lumley said the commissioners would like to put a hold on any hiring for the time being, until they are sure what they are looking at.
“It wouldn’t be fair to offer a job and then end up having to let them go because the funding isn’t there,” he said. “We don’t even know if we’re looking at $50,000 or $750,000 in cuts.”
Another area of concern is an increase in the insurance rates for county employees. Again, they aren’t sure of amounts, but they know increases are coming.
“Please keep in mind this is all preliminary,” Lumley said. “We just want all the departments to see what we’re seeing.
“We want to keep things where they’re at, but we’re not sure that’s going to happen with a 30 percent drop in valuation.”
Some departments are understaffed, which is an issue, especially now with the flu running rampant through the county.
In some offices there are just two employees and if one of them is out sick and the second gets ill, that office would have to close.
With no funding to hire, it could create an issue.
Unfortunately, the county, unlike a business, has a limited revenue stream and no way to just go out and find another source of income.
Lumley said the commissioners are too far away from actual numbers right now to say if its going to be a five percent cut or a 20 percent cut, but departments need to be prepared.
“We’re not here to tell you how to run your department,” Lumley said. “We’re not going to tell you to cut staff. We’ll tell you to cut 'x' amount from your budget and it will be up to you to find those cuts.”