To assist with making budget cuts, the Fayette County Commissioners recently asked all elected officials to utilize a modified work week in their offices until further notice.
The modified work week would essentially cut one working hour per day per employee and it is up to the discretion of individual elected officials whether or not their own office will follow it. Those under the commissioners’ appointment will begin their modified work week on Monday.
This change is part of the county officials’ efforts to cut the budget by at least 20 percent in attempts to be proactive and keep providing as many services as possible to the community, even though the general fund is expected to reduce in revenue in coming months.
According to Dean, sales tax accounts for approximately 60 percent of county revenue. With the current situation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and various businesses, that revenue will fall.
State-wide, the preliminary loss of revenue from sales tax in March was approximately 8.3 percent which, according to Dean, is approximately $65-68 million. The loss is expected to increase in April.
Not only is there a reduction in sales tax revenue but, as previously reported, the county also depends on income from both casinos and interest received from money stored in the bank. As casinos are currently closed and interest rates are much lower than normal, revenue from both of these sources is also expected to drop.
“After speaking with all of the elected officials, we decided to work together. We’re very happy about that. Everybody’s doing what they can to cut their budgets back and try to come up with at least 20 percent,” said Dean. “Some budgets have more room in them than others. The hard part is, all of our elected officials are kind of bare bones with the number of employees they already have — they don’t really have extra ones. So it’s difficult when you start cutting a budget that’s already pretty lean to make up the difference.”
As part of the effort, all elected officials are being asked to either return 20 percent of their own pay back to the general fund or to donate it to Fayette County Memorial Hospital. There are a few ways to do this but the idea behind it, according to Dean, is that everyone, not just the hourly employees working under them, is taking part in the budget cuts.
“All the funding comes from the general fund, which the commissioners have say over, and we approve that budget for everybody. We cannot make them do these things. The only option we have is what I call ‘the big stick.’ We can automatically cut all their budgets by 20 percent and say, ‘try to figure it out as best you can.’ Right now, with all of us working together and trying to accomplish that, doing it as early as we can, I think we can at least not have a big event happen, such as layoffs,” said Dean.
Other than the budget, adjustments that will be made to assist with keeping the public and county employees healthy, especially as the state opens back up, include placing sneeze guards in different county offices that work with the public, such as the DMV. Social distancing practices will also continue along with certain practices such as offering some services by appointment only.
“Even when we get back to normal, it’s not going to be the way it was,” said Dean. “Nobody really knows for sure, but if (the pandemic) is going to stick around for a year or two, then we’ll just practice distancing from the public and employees as much as possible for the foreseeable future.”
Reach Jennifer Woods at 740-313-0355 or on Twitter @JennMWoods.