PRESTONSBURG – The Floyd County Fiscal Court met Friday to discuss budget concerns and address issues of lost revenue. The court discussed possible actions that might need to be taken to deal with the loss of coal severance revenue. Officials discussed actions such as adding new tourism or insurance franchise taxes. The goal of the meeting was to allow county leaders to have an open discussion on how they could downsize the debt currently owed by the county.
A big issue that was discussed was a pay raise for three county employees. Floyd County Judge Executive Ben Hale started the meeting by informing the court of the loss of coal severance money that the county normally relied on. As officials discussed the loss of severance funds, Magistrate Ronnie Akers voiced his concerns and questioned why raises were only given to three employees when there were no raises for the county’s other 95 workers. If the budget is approved as presented, the raises include an extra $2,000 for an administrative assistant who will earn $54,000, an increase of $4,000 for a purchase order clerk who will earn $35,000, and an increase of $1,000 for a mapping staff member who will earn $16, 250. Akers asked if the county could afford raises for all employees.
Floyd County Judge Executive Ben Hale explained the reason behind the raises and why those specific employees merit a pay increase.
“We have never in the past paid according to the job specifications,” said Hale. “Administrative employees were paid basically the same. We are working to get in line with the administrative codes and pay employees based on merit, job description, job duties, and job skills. To me this is the right thing to do.”
Magistrate John Goble suggested the county set a specific starting rate for employees and allow them to increase over time and when various skills are acquired or additional job duties are required. Other magistrates agreed with this suggestion.
Akers suggested to the court that the raises for the employees not take effect until the new administrative code was in effect. Hale informed the court the raises are already built into the budget.
Also, Hale talked to the court about the county’s coal severance money decrease and said he would be happy to receive the $1.1 million in expected coal severance revenue, but noted that this pay out to the county is highly unlikely. State officials have informed him that the coal severance is less statewide than previously projected.
Hale traveled to Frankfort earlier in the month in an effort to secure part of $25 million in discretionary funds.
“I met the rural highway commissioner, who was saying the money is just not there” Hale said, “Well when you do receive a portion of discretionary funds in July let it be known I am requesting a share of those funds.”
Hale stated to the court he has a few ideas of how to reduce a portion of the county’s debt. However, he is not at liberty to discuss this measures at this time. The current budget for 2016-2017 shows a deficit of $1.3 million.
It was discussed by the court that the county intends to pay off bonds for solid waste and the detention center. This will add approximately $600,000.
The court also discussed the possibility of adding taxes as a way to increase revenue. The possibility of adding additional hotel and restaurant tax was discussed.
“If a tourism tax is added, Prestonsburg would have to approve a county tourism tax,” Hale noted. “Floyd County would then have to create a tourism board.”
No definite decisions were made at this meeting. Hale assured the court that decreasing the county debt was a top priority for him at this time and that he and other key officials are working diligently to determine what changes need to be made for Floyd County to survive and thrive on its own.
Andrea Saddler is a reporter for The Floyd County Times. She can be reached at (606) 886-8506.