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Final budget approval is May 28

Pike County commissioners held a public hearing to receive public input regarding the Fiscal Year 2024-25 budget at their May 15 meeting. The final adoption of the county’s budget will take place at the regular monthly commission meeting set for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 28 in the main, upstairs courtroom of the Pike County courthouse.

“Since the first reading, there’s been quite a large adjustment to the budget,” said commissioner Tim Daniel.

County manager Brandon Rogers said the first reading of the budget had a deficit of $2.5 to $2.7 million in order to allow commissioners to decide what adjustments needed to be made to the budget.
“After gathering information from department heads and others, we have an adoptable, balanced budget and you can see the different budget drafts before and after discussions,” said Rogers.

Several citizens spoke during the public hearing on the budget, including Cherry Thomas who asked who is expected to pay the deficit in the budget and that the budget on the website was very confusing.
Lynn Smith said he is a lifelong resident of Pike County and believes that the tax assessor’s office should not contract out appraisals and should complete them in house instead.

Becky Watts asked about the county’s annual audit and a few line items. She also noted that normally citizens expect a first and second reading of the budget and asked why citizens would not be allowed input during an evening meeting.

Commissioner Tim Daniel closed the public hearing and noted that although there have been two public meetings in the past during the budget approval process, that the county is not required to have two meetings.

Commissioner James Jenkins noted that the county’s interest revenue had increased since previous years. He asked why there was such an increase in training costs and in the commission’s office budget.
County manager Rogers said over the past three years, he had warned commissioners of an upcoming budget deficit since the county did not have adequate revenues to cover the budget and funding was taken from the general fund to cover budget shortfalls.

“We all see the inflation and it will continue to grow. We either have to cut services or we will have to raise taxes,” said Rogers. “We have been able to cover with funds from the fund balance but we need to close that window.”

The county manager answered several questions raised during the public hearing, saying that he disagrees and thinks there should be fewer employees in the tax assessors office and that the evaluations should be contracted each year.

“I think the office has had the opportunity over the past few years to get this right and they have not done it. Based on the sales-ratio study, there is somewhere around $1 million that is not being paid in taxes. Our houses are undervalued and people who are paying their taxes are making up that difference. We have to have every home in the county re-evaluated to be fair and ensure that the taxes are being paid. We have $1 million of lost revenues and continuing each year to have someone evaluate 1/3 of the county would take away any chance of favoritism and I think we could save enough money in personnel costs to pay for those contracts.”

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