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Panel considers job cuts

Members of the Unicoi County Commission, acting as the Unicoi County Budget Committee, cut almost $155,000 in expenditures in the proposed 2014-2015 budget from several county offices during a meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 5, at the Unicoi County Courthouse.
County Bookkeeper Phyllis Bennett told the Committee the deficit facing the county, as of Aug. 5, was approximately $533,000. This figure did not include a fund balance. Committee members have previously said a $200,000 fund balance is needed for the financial operations of the county.
Near the beginning of last week’s meeting, Commissioner Gene Wilson suggested a number of job cuts from offices at the courthouse. The jobs Wilson suggested eliminating were: one full-time position from the Unicoi County Clerk; one full-time and one part-time position from the Register of Deeds; one part-time job from the Trustee’s office; one full-time position from the Assessor’s office; two full-time and one part-time position from the Circuit Court Clerk’s office; and one part-time job from the Chancery Court office.
“I hate to see anyone lose their jobs, but we are at the point now that we have to do something,” Wilson said after recommending the job cuts.
Wilson also told the committee there are employees willing to take “voluntary layoffs” if the Commission chooses to eliminate job positions.
Before taking action on Wilson’s recommendation, the Budget Committee opted to begin going through each budget category to see what expenditures could be cut. The cuts from proposed expenditures agreed upon by the Committee during the Aug. 5 meeting were:
$5,000 from the County Commission budget from the travel and other charges line items;
$1,300 from the Board of Equalization from the board and committee members fees and legal notices line items;
$11,600 from the County Mayor’s office from part-time personnel, communication, data processing, maintenance and repair services, travel, office supplies, other charges and office equipment;
$5,000 from the County Attorney for legal services;
$10,160 from the Election Commission including cuts from building maintenance, travel, electricity and office supplies;
$5,800 from the Register of Deeds including part-time personnel, communication, travel and office supplies;
$2,500 from the Planning Commission from board and committee member fees and travel;
$10,500 from County Buildings from building maintenance, natural gas and utilities;
$2,000 from Other General Administration for duplicating supplies and excess risk insurance;
$52,600 from the Assessor’s office from clerical personnel, audit services, communication, office maintenance, postal charges, printing, travel, office supplies and office equipment;
$6,400 from the Trustee’s office for temporary personnel, communication, data processing, legal notices, travel and office equipment;
and $42,000 from the County Clerk’s office from clerical personnel, building maintenance, office maintenance, travel, office supplies, data processing equipment and office equipment.
As part of these cuts, one full-time position from the Assessor’s office and one full-time position from the County Clerk office were cut. According to the discussion by the Committee on Aug. 5, the full-time position in the Assessor’s office is currently vacant; however, the full-time position cut from the County Clerk’s office is currently occupied.
With the proposed $150,000 cut from expenditures, the deficit for the 2014-2015 fiscal year is approximately (not including the $200,000 needed for a fund balance) $378,000.
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The Committee also discussed funding only a percentage of county employee health insurance as a way to limit the expenditures facing the county. Asking employees to pay 20 percent or 15 percent of their health insurance premiums was discussed. However, because the county employees have already signed up for health insurance coverage for this fiscal year, which included the county funding the costs at a certain level, the committee determined that more information was needed before making such a decision.
Also discussed was the possibility of using $180,000 of the money the county received from Mountain States Health Alliance for the sale of Unicoi County Memorial Hospital to pay the subsidy to MedicOne for ambulance service during the coming fiscal year. If the $180,000 of MSHA funds are used, the budget deficit, without a fund balance, would be just under $200,000.
No decisions were finalized during the Aug. 5 meeting.
The Budget Committee met again on Tuesday, Aug. 12, after The Erwin Record’s press deadline for the Aug. 13 issue. The Committee is scheduled to meet each Tuesday at 3 p.m. and each Thursday at 5 p.m. until the end of August.