After a few minor changes, the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors approved the budget for the 2020 fiscal year.

County Finance Director Arlene Matney confirmed the county ended the fiscal year in the black, which puts the county in good standing heading into the 2020 fiscal year. However, state-mandated salary increases for teachers and additional school funding strained the county’s surplus.

County Administrator Eric Young said the county has an opportunity to give school employees a raise, but the chance couldn’t have come at a worse time.

“Opportunity doesn’t always come at an opportune time,” he said as he presented the final amendments to the budget.

The state only funded 2/3 of the amount needed to give teachers a pay increase, which would have left the county $437,000 short without additional income. The school board requested $500,000 above the level funding the board approved earlier in the year, which would cover the cost of the raises and give the school system extra money for improvement projects.

Additional funds for the county, including a $30,000 repayment from the Public Service Authority and a $250,000 fourth quarter reimbursement from the regional jail, along with existing bond money, will be able to fund the additional request from the schools, according to Young.

He said the revenue projections would equal a total increase of $310,000 and the landfill is generating enough revenue to allow the county to put $200,000 less into landfill costs than originally projected for the new fiscal year.

Young recommended giving the system the additional funds to cover the raise. He said it would also cover the cost of adding a pharmacy class and possibly an EMT program at the Tazewell County Career & Technical Center.

The changes left the budget with $169,000 more in spending than income. Young said that was a much better number than in previous years.

However, Supervisor Charlie Stacy said that did not include the ending balance for the year, which counts additional sources of income for the county outside of the revenue and expenses.

Young said the county has a history of performing better financially than is projected. He said people tend to project costs higher than they actually end up being. Board Chairman Travis Hackworth added the budget committee was discouraging that practice and asking for realistic budgets instead.

The improvements to the building used for the new fire service in Pocahontas will come out of the money being repaid by the Public Service Authority.

The county is also planning to pay $90,000 to a firm to search and apply for grants for the county. Hackworth asked the county to approach the towns and ask them to share in the cost if the grant writer would include them in the fund search.

Supervisor Mike Hymes questioned removal of the coyote bounty from the budget. Young said several people in agriculture did not believe the bounty was effective. The county previously paid a $50 bounty on female coyotes for the last several years.

Hackworth said people he talked to said studies showed killing a female only resulted in the other females having more pups. Stacy added that cattle farmers would continue to kill coyotes whether there was a bounty or not.

The board unanimously approved the amended budget.

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