MOULTON, Ala. (WHNT) - "We're broke!" That's what Lawrence County commissioners are saying tonight. Commissioners tell us the county is spending about $65 thousand dollars more than they're bringing in each month! There is even a fear to pay utility bills and write payroll checks without first checking the bank balance. WHNT News 19 attended a spirited commission meeting Thursday morning, called to address the problem of helping to make certain county employees can keep their jobs.
"What we've looked at is just our general fund is short, and we're gonna be short at the end of the year," Lawrence County Commissioner Joey Hargrove told a packed audience Thursday morning. Commissioners say their budget problems have reached a critical point. Payroll is one of the county's biggest expenses, and one of only a few places where the budget can be cut.
"Right now the general fund is low and I don't believe that this should be put on the employees of Lawrence County," Hargrove said. "I do not believe that it's the employees of Lawrence County's fault and so we do need to do some cost cutting between now and the end of our fiscal year which is in October."
Hargrove introduced a motion to borrow $400-thousand dollars to get the county through the rest of the fiscal year. That, he says, would keep the county from having to lay people off. The measure was approved on a unanimous vote. The county plans to borrow against next year's ad-valorem tax collections. State law requires that money to be repaid by the end of the calendar year.
Commission Chairman Prentis Davis reminds us Thursday's vote was merely authorization to apply for the loan. It doesn't mean that they can borrow the money. He says the county is approaching its credit limit, which means they may not be able to borrow all of the money they'll need to finish the fiscal year.
The commissioners are working to collect several debts owed to the county, including FEMA money owed from the April 27th tornadoes. Also, the county expects to terminate most of their temporary employees as early as next month.
Davis also points out the shortfall is confined to the General Fund budget. He says other county accounts are not in the same condition. However, many of the county's full-time employees are paid out of the General Fund budget.