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Greene County Urges Lawmakers Not to Cut State Funding to Counties

County officials are preparing for the possibility of more state funding cuts. State funding is definitely on the minds of Greene County Commissioners as they’re working on next year’s budget. They’re hoping to avoid lay-offs, furloughs and reductions in services to citizens. KSMU’s Missy Shelton spoke with Greene County Presiding Commissioner Dave Coonrod about the budget situation and files this report.

When tax revenues coming into state coffers are down, lawmakers have to trim the budget. Greene County Presiding Commissioner Dave Coonrod knows what that means.

Coonrod says, “Yeah, most of this stuff rolls down hill and we’re going to be on the receiving end of a lot of cuts, I’m afraid.”

The state reimburses county governments for a variety of services: from assessing property values to making sure parents pay child support to housing criminals in the county jail. Because of cuts in state funding, Greene County will have to reduce its operating budget by nearly 3 percent for 2010. That’s on top of two rounds of reductions department heads and office holders made last year. Coonrod says it’s difficult for the county to sustain services at the current level while getting less money from the state.

Coonrod says, “When the state cuts money for services that the county provides, it comes out of our hide locally. I think what’s missed, even by our own legislators is the fact that county government is established as an extension of state government. Ever since Governor Bob Holden was in office, it’s been very easy for the state to balance their budget and their shortfalls on the backs of local county governments.”

State lawmakers will begin work in January on the 2011 budget. Coonrod and other Greene County officials are urging lawmakers to avoid cutting state funds to counties.

Coonrod says, “We are trying to inform our representatives in Jefferson City that we’ve got problems down here and you can’t keep asking us to raise taxes on our local population while they refuse to raise taxes or do anything to shore their revenues up in General Assembly.”Shelton says, “Do you have a sense that that is what’s happening? That there’s an expectation that local taxpayers will step up?”Coonrod says, “We’ve actually had state representatives tell us that very thing…that they’re comfortable with us raising taxes locally in lieu of them having to address some of the shortfalls that they’ve created for us. There’s this attitude that they can beat their chests in Jefferson City and say, ‘Look what we’ve cut.’ Or ‘Look what we’ve saved.’ But if really drill down into the issue, you’ll see they’ve just pushed it on down the line and it’s usually a municipality or a county that has to shoulder the burden.”

Coonrod says the county will finalize its 2010 budget by the middle of the month. Coonrod says there is some good financial news for Greene County. The county recently earned the highest bond rating possible for a county its size. He says even with the difficult budget situation, the county is able to move forward with some new projects that won’t require general revenue dollars.