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State cuts will decrease county funds

The state is cutting its per parcel reimbursement from $5.99 to $4, a cut that will take about $81,000 from county coffers down the line.

County Assessor Dan Ward said his office can cover the budget decrease this time around using accumulated funds from a settlement it made with the state some time ago, but acknowledged the bill will likely come due next year.

“It’s compulsory to support the assessor’s office on a three-year average,” Presiding Commissioner Dr. David Cramp said.

“We may have to rely more on general revenue,” Ward agreed. “My hands are tied on that. It’s a state regulation.”

The assessor said he has cut office expenses as much as possible and will not be hiring the customary temporary workers for the upcoming re-assessment. The office normally hires two temporary workers to assist with that process.

Ward said other county assessor offices have had to lay off employees and he feels fortunate that his office has not had to do that.

It was mentioned there has been a 9 percent decrease in personal property tax revenues. Cramp feared the lack of manpower could further decrease incoming revenues if new improvements and new construction aren’t accurately reflected in the reassessment due to lack of manpower.

It’s the latest in a string of cutbacks hitting the county. At a recent meeting, Cramp discussed the loss of about $200,000 in federal bridge money which is affecting efforts to repair the Vo Tech bridge.

Later in the meeting, Bruce Scott, who is helping the county pursue grant money, said he is looking into a possible source of funding for bridge repairs.

He has already brought in several law enforcement and equipment grants and is in pursuit of several more. The grants total more than $1 million if all are won. He promised to keep commissioners in the loop on the potential bridge funds.

Economic stimulus money has been hard to get because of the rapid time frame and the hoops that are being presented, Scott said. One grant, for example, required videotaping as documentation, an unexpected burden that resulted in a last-minute scramble.

“Those who do the work and jump through the hoops I think will come out ahead,” he said, pointing out that many others won’t make it through the process.

Mike Alesandrini presented a couple of ideas for the county on pursuing economic stimulus funds for energy efficiency grants. This one also has a short time frame, but is looking for more than just projects that switch out a few light bulbs.

Converting methane at a landfill into usable energy would be an example of the types of projects the grant officials want to see.

“They want to see things that are systemic, systematic changes,” Alesandrini said.

The state has $12.5 million available statewide for these projects, and both cities and counties are eligible to pursue them. Partnerships would be looked on with favor, but with the short time frame, that might be difficult to do unless the partnership was already in place, Alesandrini said.

Another criteria for the grant is number of jobs created or saved, whether there’s any economic development component to the project, and the amount of energy savings.

Commissioners took it under advisement and Associate Commissioner Patrick Mullins agreed to spearhead efforts related to that particular grant.

On other matters, Collector Pam Williams reported her office is working on online bill pay. When it becomes fully operational, tax payers will be able to pay their property tax bills online with a credit card. She will be releasing the details of that in the near future, once the Web site is ready to go and all the bugs worked out.

Renee Jean can be reached at 431-2010 ext. 117 or

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