By Connie Las Schneider

Quorum Court Budget Committee members spent a second night studying the 2020 budget Wednesday.

Since revenue totals for 2020 were not available at the first meeting, public service departments including Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and the Sheriff’s Jail started the meeting with revised figures that lowered their budgets in a further effort to save money.

“The bottom line is our budget is less than it was last week,” said Franklin County Judge Rickey Bowman.

As of Wednesday, 2020 budget expenditures in County General were still approximately $99,000 over projected revenue, according to County Treasurer Shelly Wilson.

Other county department budgets were also reviewed but some budgets have not been presented yet, so there is still much work to do before the budget can be approved by the full Quorum Court in December.

District Court Judge Chris Brockett also responded negatively to the Committee’s rejection last week of his $10,000 cost saving suggestion to remove one vacant position and transfer that position’s responsibilities to his other employees in exchange for raises. At the time, the Committee agreed it was not fair to give one department a raise without giving raises to other employees, so Brockett subsequently had to hire a new employee to fill the vacant District Court position.

“There will be no raises in 2020,” stressed Budget Committee Chairman Lacey Neissl Clark.

Most of the county’s budget dilemma stems from lower 2019 tax revenues so cuts in county services and other areas to balance the 2020 County General budget could be necessary.

There is also real concern about the upcoming “sunset” vote in March 2020 on the 1% special sales tax (hospital tax) since this tax funds vital public services that residents depend on. “If the special sales tax doesn’t pass, our public services may go away in 2021,” warned Bowman.

All four Budget Committee members agreed to meet again next Wednesday and “stay as long as it takes” to go through the rest of the 2020 budget.