MADISON — Boone County Commissioners say they are pleased with the results of budget sessions for the 2021-22 fiscal year and the concessions made by elected officials in their line items to keep the county moving forward.
Commissioner Jacob Messer, Ph.D. — who took office in January — is no stranger to budgets; as a former journalist and current administrator with Boone County Schools, he understands the process but said he learned a lot in his first county government budget sessions.
“Our Assistant Administrator Lee Ann Dale has been giving (commissioners) monthly updates and printouts for review, and we’ve been reviewing those each month to be as well informed as possible and to make the best decisions possible,” he said. “I think we’ve all three taken this very seriously; with the financial situation within the county, we can’t afford not to. I’m proud that we have looked line item to line item looking to reduce — whether it is $5 or $5,000 — in any way we can to save money where we can without sacrificing service to our constituents.”
He added, “I’m proud that we came up with a budget that meets our needs and doesn’t sacrifice service, and I feel our elected officials should be happy with it.”
The approximate $6.2 million budget submitted to the West Virginia State Auditor’s Office for approval stands as a far cry from the $15-18 million budgets of just a decade ago — a time when Boone County benefited from over $5 million in coal severance taxes and, additionally, inventory tax money from the coalfields.
Commissioner Brett Kuhn echoed Messer’s comments.
“We were going down line-by-line and talking and discussing each one between the three of us,” said Kuhn. “At the end of the day, you can’t make everyone happy. I know there are people who will be unhappy. I feel this was as fair a budget as we could produce based on the economic realities of our county today.”
He added, “We want to protect as many vital programs as we could and I am always concerned about the employees at the courthouse. We didn’t want to cut any jobs and we were fortunate to produce a budget without a large number of job cuts.”
Kuhn said employee benefits and insurance coverage remain unchanged, and he confirmed that struggling departments like parks and recreation and recycling were supported via the new budget. He added that the Boone County Sheriff’s Office was the one area that took the largest hit financially, but he would not elaborate until the budget is approved. The new fiscal year begins on July 1.
Commission President Craig Bratcher could not immediately be reached for this story.