By Jeff Neagle
Concerns over falling revenue and rising costs have caused the Adair County Fiscal Court to reach out to local banks for money to cover the remainder of the fiscal year.
At Tuesday night’s meeting of the court, County Judge Executive Gale Cowan made the case to the magistrates. “Everyone knows how tight our budget has been and due to the COVID, we’ve lost a lot of revenue. We are actually going to have to probably look at borrowing some money from a local bank to try to get through the end of the fiscal year. We’ve lost hundreds of thousands of dollars due to the COVID and our budget was tight anyway.”
Cowan recommended to the court that the county look at borrowing $200,000, which should cover the remainder of the fiscal year that ends on June 30. She stated that the amount she recommended should get the county through the end of the fiscal year and hopefully no more issues come up.
“I did call local banks today. I didn’t get anything back from Community Trust Bank or First and Farmers. They said it would be a couple of weeks before they could get us anything. Bank of Columbia offered us a rate of 3.25 percent and UCB (United Citizens Bank) offered two percent,” said Cowan.
Magistrate Chris Reeder expressed surprise at the difference in percentages and said that borrowing money wasn’t really optional. “Whatever we need to do, I think. We don’t have a choice but to do this.”
Judge Cowan stated that the banks had asked what terms the county would be seeking for the loan. “I told them there is a possibility we only need a few weeks and we turn around and pay it right back, but then it could be three to six months, too.”
Magistrate Daryl Flatt proposed terms he would like to consider. “Could you see about doing a 12 month and asking if there would be a penalty for early payoff? I know sometimes they won’t do a penalty, but if we could, do a 12 month.”
The court voted to go give Cowan permission to seek a loan from UCB for the two percent rate.
The funds are needed to cover costs of some of the county departments. During the treasurer’s report, Melinda Quinn stated there was $48,668.32 in the general fund as of May 31.
There were requests to transfer funds into three different accounts during the meeting: the animal shelter, the 911 center, and the jail. The first two requests were for $20,000 for each department and the jail transfer request was for $50,000 making the total $90,000. That is $41,331.68 more than the general fund had as of May 31, which is why the county must borrow funds.
Magistrates asked how much funding each department has, but the computer system was down Tuesday and figures were not available at the meeting. The system was still down on Wednesday as well and Quinn said she was working with the software company to get the issue resolved.
The fund transfers for the animal shelter and 911 center were approved without discussion.
When the jail transfer was presented, Magistrate Daryl Flatt commented on the situation. “I was one who voted against that [at the last meeting] because I’d said since January when I got on the budget committee, we could see that the overtime was costing us and we’ve tried and tried to get it [the schedule] switched around. We finally got it switched around but I always said that I wasn’t going to vote for anything extra. I went back and looked. I think this $50,000 is probably due to the COVID because we’ve lost inmates from Cumberland County. We were averaging about 14 a day and now we are down to about four, so hopefully that will pick back up.”
Jailer Joey White estimated that the jail had lost $20,000 to $25,000 per month over the last three months. “They didn’t take many from us in March, but parole violators and other arrests there, we lost quite a bit due to those arrests not being made.”
Magistrate Flatt made the motion to approve the funds transfer for the jail. There were two no votes on the funds transfer, Magistrate Reeder – who also voted no on the last transfer – and Billy Coffey. The transfer was approved by a 5-2 vote.
One anticipated item was the Jim Blair Center, though discussion was not long on the topic. Judge Cowan said, “The city attorney [Derrick Helm] contacted Jennifer [Hutchison-Corbin, County Attorney] yesterday and asked if we would be willing for myself and two magistrates meet with the city and two city council members with a mediator.”
Hutchison-Corbin said, “I talked to Derek yesterday and we thought it might be beneficial for the city and county to speak about having someone mediate this and he suggested Judge George. He’s a retired Circuit Judge and he does a lot of mediation.” The county and city would each pay $200 for the mediation with the judge. Hutchison-Corbin recommended that the court proceed with mediation.
Cowan added, “I’ve talked to a couple of magistrates, Flatt and Reeder from the budget committee, and they have agreed to sit in on that if that is ok with the court. The magistrates agreed to move forward with this.
In other business for the court, Sheriff Josh Brockman gave a report on the property tax money collected by his office. As of May 31, his office had collected $7,514,316.52 with only about one percent having not paid. He said his office has now passed on the delinquent taxes to County Clerk Lisa Greer’s office. Brockman also gave a report on the distribution of the funds. According to the sheriff, the county has received $1,013,617.86. The school system has received $3,466,180.55. The county extension office received $436,546.54. The health department’s share was $101,366.88. The soil conservation office portion was $101,297.42. The Adair County library received $348,956.25. Fire acreage coverage was allocated $2,018.56. The portion for Adair County EMS was $473,268.60. The hospital board special tax totaled $637,875.21 while the state received $809,641.64. Fire dues received for the Knifely Fire Department stood at $19,081.17 and for Breeding Fire Department at $14,565.83.
Contracts were awarded for road service bids for the coming fiscal year. Gaddie Shamrock was awarded contracts for hot mix as well as chip and seal. The contract for crushed stone was awarded to Burton Stone. Mid-State was awarded the concrete contract and Hudson was awarded the emulsified asphalt contract.