Mt. Vernon Register-News

March 22, 2013

County's faces financial crises


---- — MT. VERNON — County Treasurer Dan Knox painted a not so rosy picture of the county's future finances Thursday night at the County Board's Fiscal Committee meeting.Knox presented committee members with a cash flow report as of Tuesday that shows the county could be $103,692 in the red by the end of April. Knox said the county could have a positive balance of approximately $157,550 by the time the April 15 payroll comes around, but after an estimated payroll of $220,000 on April 29, the county would end up in the red.As of Tuesday, the county was holding claims of $47,676 for February and $82,250 for March, the treasurer reported, and although $29,656 were scheduled to be released earlier this week, there remains a balance of $55,059 in claims being held, and $214,642 in outstanding claims to be paid."You have to know where we're at," Knox told the committee. "I don't see anything getting better in future because there is no drastic increase in revenue. There is no revenue available that is going to right the ship."Knox said the three payrolls in April exacerbates the county's financial plight."We may make payroll in April, but I don't know, it is no guarantee," Knox said, who indicated there is $150,000 remaining in the county's emergency fund set aside for payroll only."Three payrolls in the month is bad to weather. When you start $103,000 in the hole, it's a big hole to dig out of. We need to decide what we're going to do. In April, we need to take some kind of action to right the ship," he added.Knox pointed out the county has been hit with some atypical expenses recently, including the recent contract with Advance Healthcare Corrections — the company contracted by the county to deliver medical services at the Jefferson County Justice Center. That move was expected to help the county recover ICE detainees which were pulled from the jail in December due to medical issues. However, county leaders have cautioned that even if ICE prisoners are returned to Jefferson County, there will be initial expenses and revenue streams could take up to 60 days.Sheriff Roger Mulch told the committee ICE is currently waiting on written policies from AHC, and once those are received, an inspection and assessment can be made.Mulch also suggested the county look into taking funds from the Public Safety Tax to bridge the gap of revenues until ICE prisoners are returned or until revenue streams improve. State's Attorney Doug Hoffman said he would have to investigate that possibility based on the referendum approved by voters and the acting resolution the County Board presented to the voters.After receiving the news presented by Knox, board member Jim Laird said, "We're in trouble," adding committee members may have to conduct special meetings to discuss the 2012-13 budget, which is still open."Payroll is our first priority," Knox said. "Claims are our second. With what we know we have to fix the problem long term."IN OTHER BUSINESS:Coroner Eddie Joe Marks expressed concerns about his budget, indicating that the salaries for his deputy coroners had been zeroed out. Marks said he has always been under budget, and he requested a salary of $4,200 for his deputies — up from the $3,600 in last year's budget.Fiscal Chairman John Keele said he thought the situation was only temporary based on the county's tight budget, and Vice Chairman Don Rector contributed,"I think something can be worked out."Marks was not on the agenda, but spoke during the "public input" section of the meeting.The full County Board meets at 7 p.m. Monday.