CLINTWOOD — Dickenson County starts its new fiscal year in the best cash position ever but needs continue to grow amid a changing economic landscape and the county administrator Monday was looking for guidance.
He got some, along with more funding requests, and none of it was included the budget the board just passed. A budget amendment will be a certainty, County Administrator David Moore told the board, although he’s not finished making final adjustments.
Supervisors added help for about two dozen laid-off Blackjewel coal miners to the list of unbudgeted items on the list for consideration at the Aug. 12 workshop. How much hinges on forthcoming answers to questions members posed that day. (See related story.)
Going into the 2019-2020 year, Dickenson County has about $18 million cash, Moore told the board. “It’s never been at a level that high,” he said. Only about $850,000 of that is restricted for its insurance reserve. The county is partially self-insured.
And it has little debt, he also said, primarily for the justice center, which costs about $750,000 a year over the next 30 years.
They expect to end the year with better than expected coal and gas severance collections, he said, but pointed out 60 percent of the coal side comes from just one mine. There are four main producers and two are strip mines, he added.
The treasurer’s office has made strides in bringing in delinquent real estate and personal property taxes, he said, and the commissioner of revenue has seen improvements in the accuracy of corporate assessments.
But for perspective, Moore said, Dickenson County has the same real estate tax collection number today as it did in 2012.
Changes on a state level, mean less funding for roads and transportation needs, he noted, and the county needs to be braced for shouldering an increased load.
For the short term, Moore said he needed the board to set priorities on some requests not yet in the budget. Keep in mind, he told them, he would be wring a check that day for about $400,000 for its share of a new roof for Clintwood Elementary School. It was a budgeted item, he said, but that is a big number coming out at the very first of the year.
Moore listed the following as among the unbudgeted requests:
• The Dickenson County Sheriff’s Office has requested five new vehicles, which come at a cost of about $35,000 to $40,000. They recommended getting two now and three later to capitalize on available discounts.
• The animal control department needs a vehicle, at roughly $25,000 to $30,000.
• The Dickenson County Industrial Development Authority wants a new travel car, which can be shared by the county.
• About $100,000 more will be needed to finish the food bank and Department of Social Services headquarters now under development on Longs Fork.
• Paving for the Haysi Community Library, after the county had paved and striped the Jonnie B. Deel Memorial Library in Clintwood.
• Clintwood Rescue Squad has an ambulance that needs a new engine, but replacement quotes are needed.
• The Clinchco Fire Department seeks a down payment on a like-new but used fire truck. The board got a positive report about the condition and value of the equipment from the county emergency management chief who joined the trip to New York to look at it.
That request prompted discussion of other fire and rescue needs throughout the county, including turn-out gear for Haysi Fire Department, and how to address them fairly now and for the long haul. Moore said supervisors could consider a work session devoted exclusively to that challenge.
The need for a ladder truck was mentioned more than once. Clintwood District Supervisor David Perry called it “the elephant in the closet.”
Moore also pointed to the manpower needs they will face in the future. If the county doesn’t have a younger crew coming in to replace its veteran emergency services personnel, Moore observed, “it’s going to be a problem.”
A glaring omission from the list, Perry said, is the sewer project at Ervinton Elementary School.
“It’s not our project to chase,” Moore said.
But if it poses any risk to students, Perry said, “then that trumps anything on the list. I don’t care whose project it is.”
If it’s that important, asked Kenady District Supervisor Shelbie Willis, why has the school board not asked for that funding.
Compton noted that it had mentioned it at one point in its capital request.
The board took no action but discussed its local funding effort and how it exceeds the state-mandated required local effort.
Moore said the county can’t continue to fund school division operations at 183 percent of the state mandate.
The day is going to come, he said, when the county will have to back off a couple million from the roughly $25 million budgets it’s been producing.
There are not many places to get that, he said.