Boone County has slashed multiple government jobs in an effort to make up for a multimillion budget shortfall because of coal’s decline and the county’s subsequent population drop.
The personnel cuts will save the struggling Southern West Virginia county somewhere around $1 million, according to Boone Prosecutor Keith Randolph, but it’s not enough to make up for the entire projected shortfall.
“I think it’s an important step,” he said, “but I still believe we’re going to be off the mark.”
Randolph estimated the county still had more than $1 million to trim off its budget.
County commissioners last month mandated that governmental office leaders make 20 percent cuts to positions and benefits. It’s the second round of layoffs this summer in Boone — which, not too long ago, brought in a multi-million dollar surplus from coal tax revenue — in an effort to save money.
The cuts, the majority of which will go into effect Sept. 15, will affect the offices of the sheriff, assessor, county clerk and prosecutor.
Boone Sheriff Randall White said four positions will go unfilled after four deputies move on from the office, including one who is retiring. White added that he will cut a position in his tax office to complete the 20 percent reduction.
The Sheriff’s Office, earlier this summer, eliminated two deputy positions because of the budget woes.
Additionally, the County Commission last month signed off on terminating an employee in the county’s Economic Development Corporation, leaving one full-time employee in the office tasked with bringing businesses and development grants into the struggling county.
Commission President Eddie Henricks called the cuts “tough” in a small community with limited well-paying jobs.
“We live in a county where we all know one another,” he said. “You have to look someone in the face and tell them you have to lay them off, knowing their history and the struggles they may have at home.”
County commissioners approved selling off some county-owned property, including a handful of ball fields, to make up for the additional budget gap.
While the county has enough projected revenue to pay its bills this year, Randolph said, the cuts are an effort to be “fiscally responsible.”
“There’s money there,” he said, “but it’s going fast.”
The county pointed to plummeting revenue from the state’s coal severance tax as a reason behind the drastic drop in finances.
The special tax once poured millions of dollars into Boone County and was regularly used for special projects, including school athletic fields. This year, Randolph said, the county will be lucky if it receives an expected $800,000 from the special tax. All of that revenue is allocated to the state for the county’s jail bill.
Selling off some county property is expected to bring in $100,000 to $150,000, Randolph said, adding that the government will continue to look for ways to shed thousands of dollars in expenditures ahead of next fiscal year.
“We monitor finances on a monthly basis,” Randolph said. “In July, we spent over $600,000, and we collected just under $400,000. We can’t keep that up for very long.”