The Mingo County Commission has been struggling with financial difficulties since itscurrent budget went into effect on July 1. The body has taken several actions to remedy the situation and called for all of the county’s elected officials to be present at its meeting Wednesday morning to discuss the matter.
County Finance Officer Tina Lockard told the county officers that, while tax collections have been up for the months of July and August, the county’s general budget is down by almost a half million dollars and the coal severance fund is down by $284,619 both of which were caused by shortfalls from the 2019-20 fiscal year budget.
“At the end of the fiscal year, I told everyone that we ended about a half million dollars down,” Lockard said. “I actually ended “general county” $347,942 down and that basically was that our property taxes were down.”
Lockhard said that courthouse closures and restrictions put into place because of the COVID-19 pandemic are part of the reasons for the shortfall. She said to help offset this the county has applied for grants from the CARES Act.
Collections for the months of July and August were $218,000 and $793,000 respectively. These numbers were higher than those of the same timeframe last year, Lockard said. However, with the carried over shortfall and normal county operations, she said the county currently has $870,000 in the bank.
Lockard said the county owes more than $215,000 to the Southwestern Regional Jail for jail fees and that the county’s payroll is more than $300,000 each month. In addition, Lockard said she has to look forward to November, December and January which she called “lean months” when collections are typically much less than what has been experienced during the last two months.
“I wanted to give everybody an update and to tell you that our numbers are still down, my funds are still down,” Lockard said. “We put a spending freeze on through September 30 and I thank each of you for being conservative and not purchasing anything.”
The officers were understanding of the problem and discussed options with the commission as to how revenues could be generated and how further cuts could be made.
“I want to thank you for sharing this with us,” Mingo County Prosecutor Duke Jewel told Lockard. “We need to be aware because eventually budget cuts are people cuts. People cuts are service cuts. None of us want to see that happen.”
Commissioner Greg “Hootie” Smith agreed with him saying, “I have no desire to cut people. Budgets are estimates and our budget may look healthy, but our cash is how we pay our bills and that’s another issue. You guys (the elected officials) have been outstanding. I appreciate your cooperation and working with this. We have been through a budget crisis before and have made it through.”
Lockard told the officials she would keep them updated on the budget as the year progresses.