(02/19/2011)
The Calhoun County Commission has scheduled several meetings during March to prepare the 2011-12 county budget, a budget that is presenting a major challenge to fund the county's official functions.

The county's budget is the smallest in WV, next to Wirt County, about $1.3 million of allocated spending, with another $500,000 of designated pass-through funds.

The county has among the lowest tax bases on the eastern seaboard.

Facing increased costs, regional jail costs, and unfunded mandates from the state, with a stagnant tax base and dwindling money streams from the state, the problem is threating the ability of the county to carry out constitutional requirements.

The future of the county is at stake.

Calhoun has, next to Wirt, the smallest number of county employees (13), and is facing cutting some of those positions to balance a budget.

Calhoun's 911 employees are paid by a state funding stream.

The commission has already cut virtually all discretionary spending for the past two years, reduced benefits and ask the county's elected officials to reduce their office budgets every year.

The county's single employee to maintain the Calhoun County Park has been eliminated, and it's unclear what will happen with the park's maintenance, a burden being assumed by the volunteer Park Board.

About twelve years ago the county was in hock for the regional jail bill, and managed to pay off that debt.

The county is once again withholding payment of the jail bill in order to keep much needed cash to provide county services. Following a review of individuals incarcerated from the county, the commission determined their need for incarceration.

During this week's meeting, the commission discussed current shortfalls that are being experienced in county offices through June 30.

The commissioners acted upon requesting new doors for the court house and further TV security, using grant funds for courthouse security.

Jean Simers was appointed to the LK Transit Authority, Grantsville Chief of Police Jeff Starcher was appointed to the 911 Advisory Board.

EMS board member Judy Brannon's service was transfered from Sherman to Center District. The resignation of Tony Richards from the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department was approved, and the Calhoun Park Board requested the deletion of two board members, Curtis Gregory and Clark Grant.

Commissioner Scottie "Chip" Westfall will head a 2011-12 initiative to revise the county employee handbook, with an initial meeting scheduled for 4 p.m. on Feb. 28.

The commission is preparing a list of grant requests to legislative representatives for special funding from what used to be called the Budget Digest.

Those grant monies have gone from about $200,000 annually to about $70,000. The commission is requesting funds for EMS, the fire departments, the county park and other agencies.

During February, the commission is conducting seven tax equalization meetings, where taxpayers can bring issues regarding any tax problems.

During March, the commission has scheduled five meetings to work on the county budget.


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