MASON COUNTY — Upcoming cuts to the county budget will basically affect everyone in Mason County once the fiscal year arrives on July 1.
The proposed budget will come before the Mason County Commission for a vote at its regular meeting on Thursday - a budget that contains drastic cuts for many outside agencies, some as much as 50 percent.
There are two major issues which will cause a significant decrease in revenue for the county in Fiscal Year 2013-14 - a skyrocketing regional jail bill and the loss of a major unit going offline at the Philip Sporn Plant which was not unexpected, just not expected until 2015.
Commission President Rick Handley said the county learned that American Electric Power would be taking down one of the plant’s five units sooner than anticipated about two weeks ago - again, this was a scenario expected in 2015. Handley said there are a total of five units with the first being taken offline being the largest and therefore the one which generates the most utility income into the county budget. With this unit going down, the county will lose $429,000 annually in revenue.
As for the regional jail bill, the county had budgeted expenses at $500,000 but it appears the actual figure will be around $700,000 at the current rate of incarcerations. This figure seems troublesome to say the least considering programs like home confinement and day report are already put in place to cut down on expenses for housing inmates - without these programs, the regional jail costs would likely be even higher. Handley said the county is charged $48.60 a night per prisoner.
Receiving 50 percent cuts in funding from the county include all fire departments, the ambulance authority (EMS), the health department, all libraries, day report, utility assistance for all community buildings. Local festivals also took major hits. (A complete listing of funding cuts will appear at the end of this article.)
Also, county funding was completely eliminated for park maintenance which had $40,000 budgeted for the previous year. Gone are county funding of the city pools for both New Haven and Point Pleasant which both received $5,000, each, last year. The Point Pleasant River Museum, which received $3,500 in the last fiscal year, and the Mason County Solid Waste Authority, which received $5,000 for its annual clean up last year, will also each see this funding completely eliminated.
Handley said there were no budget cuts to county offices but there were also no increases in funding either. County offices will see no raises and will be operating at “bare bones,” Handley added. The county is constitutionally required to fund these offices within certain parameters and once these offices are funded, then outside agencies are looked at in terms of funding with what money is left.
“Nobody wants a budget cut,” Handley said, going on to explain Mason County’s new financial reality. “We’re not the federal government, they don’t have to balance their budget, we do. If you run a small business and don’t balance your budget, you’ll go under. If a family needs to balance their budget, cuts are made.”
Listed below are the proposed budget cuts regarding county funding for outside agencies: Mason County Development Authority, $25,000 in FY13 to $12,500 in FY14. Ambulance Authority, $120,000 in FY13 to $60,000 in FY14. Mason County Fair, $5,000 in FY13 to $2,000 in FY14. Local libraries, $71,000 in FY13 to $35,500 in FY14. Community Action, $20,000 in FY13 to $10,000 in FY14. Mason County Solid Waste Authority (annual cleanup), $5,000 in FY13, no funding in FY14. Mason County Health Department, $25,000 in FY13, $12,500 in FY14. Park maintenance, $40,000 in FY13, no funding in FY14. Day Report Center, $46,000 in FY13, $23,000 in FY14. Prestera (mental health), $5,000 in FY13 to $2,500 in FY14. Local mental hygiene funding will stay the same as last year and be budgeted at $5,000.
Fire departments: New Haven, $27,000 in FY13, $13,500 in FY14. Mason, $26,000 in FY13, $13,000 in FY14. Point Pleasant, $31,000 in FY13, $15,500 in FY14. Valley, $27,000 in FY13, $13,500 in FY14. Leon, $25,000 in FY13, $12,500 in FY14. Flatrock, $25,000 in FY13, $12,500 in FY14.
Community buildings (utility assistance): Hartford, New Haven, Henderson, Letart, Baden, Beech Hill, Gallipolis Ferry, all received $2,000 each in FY13 and are each budgeted to receive $1,000 in FY14. Leon Town Park received $800 in FY13 and is budgeted for $400 in FY14.
Battle Days, $2,500 in FY13, $1,250 in FY14. Point Pleasant Regatta, $2,500 in FY13, $1,250 in FY14. Mason County Tourism, $6,000 in FY13, $3,000 in FY14. Point Pleasant River Museum, $3,500 in FY13, no funding in FY14. Mothman Festival, $1,500 in FY13, $750 in FY14. Point Pleasant City Pool and New Haven Pool both received $5,000 each in FY13, neither will receive funding in FY14.
Handley said the county won’t know if there is any “carry over” of funds from last year’s budget until June 30 and if so, those funds would go back into funding the ambulance authority and fire departments. Also, the county is looking into a state assistance program which provides funding to counties which lose revenue based on utilities, much like the revenue generated from the unit at Philip Sporn Plant. Handley again stated if any money is recovered from this program, funding would go into the ambulance authority and fire departments first.
Again, the budget has not been approved by the county commission but will be up for a vote at Thursday’s meeting. Last year’s county budget was around $7.6 million.