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Phil Perry/Coal Valley News - Boone County Commissioner Brett Kuhn said that commissioners were left with no choice but to ask elected officials to cut their individual budgets by 20 percent which they will present to the commission at their Sept. 3 session.

MADISON — Boone County Commissioners asked elected officials to cut another 20 percent from their budgets in the midst of a $2.5 million fiscal shortcoming at their regular session on Aug. 27.

Commission president Eddie Hendricks read a letter to attendees that was delivered to elected officials regarding their budgets.

"We are directing elected officials to cut 20 percent of your personal services, not public services," said Hendricks. "We meet again on Sept. 3 and each elected official will be on the agenda to report what your cuts are, which will be in effect on Sept. 15, 2019."

Hendricks went on to say that the employees affected will be eligible for health insurance for three months at the rate they are currently pay with the county paying the difference.

The budget stands at $7.2 million prior to the 20 percent reduction with the county collecting $5.4 million.

"This won't show up immediately," added Hendricks. But we hope we won't have to come back and visit this later. This has not been at all fun. It is tough because we know these people. Our directive is to put out a healthy (and) balanced budget. We are hoping we're on the right track."

Commissioner Brett Kuhn clarified the term "personal services" after the meeting.

"With personal, we are talking about salaries," he said. "Not any services provided."

Via a phone interview that evening, Hendricks expressed some hope regarding the possibility of relief from a jail bill that ran over $70,000 in July.

"For decades, Boone County helped support the state of West Virginia because of our success with coal," he said. "Now we need some help and my hope is that the state will provide us with some relief in some way."

While Hendricks fell short of saying that the county has plans for not paying their jail bill, county officials have said that it is an option that Boone County is researching from a legal perspective.

Citing the loss of coal severance funds as a major blow to Boone County, Hendricks said that he supported economic development and that stance would not waiver. 

"We can't just lay down and give up," he said. "We've got to move forward and continue to promote our county and bring economic development to our area."

Kuhn said that the cuts are necessary because officials are simply out of options.

"We've looked at every possible thing that we can and with where we are at in this very moment, this was a decision we had to make," said Kuhn. "With what came out of our (budget) committee meeting, we got a lot of great ideas to look at throughout this fiscal year. I think a lot of ideas will have weight and can help."

On May 1, elected officials were asked to make an 8 percent slash to their budgets in an effort to tighten the shortfall.

"This is not what I signed up for," said Commissioner Craig Bratcher. "When I started running for commission, I wanted to make Boone County better and try my best to bring businesses in. When this hit us it was like a right punch coming out of a doorway and hitting you right between the eyes."

The Boone County Commission will meet again on Sept. 3 at 1:30 p.m. in the Boone County Courthouse Annex Commission Chambers.

Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at pperry@hdmediallc.com or at 304-307-2403.