MT. VERNON — Jefferson County’s Finance Committee stopped short of recommending — at the advice of State’s Attorney Doug Hoffman — an inter fund transfer to help the county bail out of its financial plight.
County Chairman Robert White recommended the Board take a minimum of $380,000 out of a dormant motor fuel tax account to help the county out of a $481,000 debt in demand claims carried over from last fiscal year.
“This is temporary,” White emphasized. “It’s a nagging hangover from losing ICE (Immigration Customs Enforcement) prisoners. We need an umbrella to get through this storm.”
The Committee took no action on the recommendation since it was not formally on the meeting agenda. Hoffman interjected the item “expense reduction alternatives” was not a clear enough agenda item under the Open Meetings Act to take formal action, although committee members were clearly in favor of the recommendation.
By statute, if money is taken from the $1.1 million account, it has to be paid back within one year. It was not clear if the time element provision is for one calendar year or during the current fiscal year.
The topic is expected to be revisited during Monday night’s full board meeting.
“We’re not really borrowing, we’re using county funds to pay bills,” said Fiscal Committee Chairman Robert Watt.
“I don’t like borrowing, but right now we’re in critical mass,” White said. “This is not a flash and dash, that’s why I presented this information to you.”
White said this is the first step toward financial recovery for the county, with the next step figuring out how to repay it. He recommended the borrowed amount be paid down to at least $200,000 by the end of the year.
Treasurer Dan Knox explained it took the county approximately three months into the current fiscal year to catch up from last year’s fiscal year, noting $446,000 in demand claims are still unpaid.