Sullivan commissioner withdraws 5% cut resolution

J. H. Osborne • Feb 20, 2013 at 12:08 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — A resolution to request all those receiving funding from Sullivan County to submit budget requests reflecting a 5 percent cut for the upcoming fiscal year was withdrawn Tuesday by its primary sponsor.

Commissioner Dwight King said the resolution is no longer needed because County Mayor Steve Godsey has sent a letter to all county department heads asking that each submit two budget requests — including one that shows how they would cut 5 percent from their budgets.

King initiated the resolution after a discussion by the commission’s Administrative Committee earlier this month. That group endorsed the concept, as did the commission’s Executive Committee. The commission’s Budget Committee, however, raised several questions on the issue and took no action.

At that meeting, longtime Budget Committee Chairman Eddie Williams said he could not support the 5 percent cut resolution, in part because it is not realistic and is misleading to the general public.

The county’s overall $164 million budget cannot be simply cut across the board by five percent (which would total $8 million in cuts), Williams said, due to legal requirements to maintain funds in certain accounts such as schools, highways and public safety.

Williams also cautioned the county must take care in making some cuts because a 5 percent reduction in local funding can jeopardize a much larger chunk of a department’s outside funding (through state or federal grants that require a local match or specific maintenance of effort).

“A five percent cut in Sullivan County’s budget is not a reality,” Williams said on Feb. 7. “I don’t know how anybody could vote to cut 5 percent of Sullivan County’s budget. I want to do all we can. Save all we can. But let’s be straightforward on what we know we can do and can’t do as we put it before the public in this county.”

On Tuesday, King said again that he simply wanted to get the ball rolling on this year’s budget process, and doesn’t want it to be like last year’s process — which ended in a tax increase.

King also made comments to distance himself from a list of potential budget cuts being shopped around by Commissioner Ed Marsh.

Marsh was co-sponsor of the resolution to seek the 5 percent cut budget submissions from department heads.

King said discussion of Marsh’s “worksheet” had muddied the water on debate of the resolution.

King said he didn’t want the credit — or the blame — for something he did not create.

The county’s next fiscal year begins July 1 and will cover county finances through June 30, 2014.

Interim Budget Director Gayvern Moore said earlier this month that her office would be sending out annual requests for departmental budget submissions on Feb. 14, and expect those to be turned in by early March.

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