Grayson prepares for state cuts

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By Ben Bomberger, Reporter

INDEPENDENCE — After riding out a wave of state financial cuts through local tax increases, Grayson County will once again be forced to dig deeper into its pockets after additional cuts announced by Gov. Tim Kaine.

Earlier this month, Kaine released a plan to close the gap on a $1.35 billion shortfall in the state. The plan called for one day of unpaid leave for most state workers and a reduction in contributions to the state employee pension plan and another withdrawal from the rainy day reserve fund.

The plan includes reductions across the board, including a 6.9 percent decrease in sheriff’s and regional jails, 9.9 percent for commonwealth’s attorneys, 15.6 percent for circuit court clerks and 17.6 percent for treasurers, finance directors and commissioners of the revenue.

The reductions are identified as “bottom-line” budget adjustments, and not an adjustment to specific line items or salaries in the budget.

Grayson County Administrator Jonathan Sweet said Grayson is “still looking at what percentage cuts correlate to in exact dollars for our respective constitutional offices.”

The county is looking closely at finances from a comprehensive perspective and has identified potential threats to its fiscal health, Sweet said.

“We are preparing to work with the constitutional offices to develop a plan of action to help address the state cuts and mitigate the impacts to services and personnel as much as possible.”

Grayson is not alone, Sweet said. He noted that many localities across the country are not only facing financial challenges this year, but for years to come.

“The [board of supervisors] is looking to take a team approach to weather this storm and rely on all accountable departments to share the solution,” Sweet told The Gazette. “I feel confident that we can all work together to get through these trying times and position Grayson County to enjoy a healthy financial future.”

Kaine also proposed $4.5 million in cuts to the Virginia Cooperative Extension and Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station at Tech. The plan eliminates 929 positions in state government and results in 293 layoffs.

It marks the fourth time Kaine has proposed cuts in the two-year budget that expires June 30, 2010.

The governor also called for another round of cuts to state colleges. He reduced state funding by as much as 15 percent for the colleges, but said he will seek to accelerate the use of federal stimulus money to cushion the impact of those cuts. No cuts were proposed to the budget for grades K-12.

Kaine and lawmakers revised the $77 billion budget earlier this year to account for a cumulative shortfall of $3.7 billion, but that plan projected a slight increase in tax collections for the fiscal year that began July 1.

Kaine ordered more cuts after his administration determined that state revenue will decrease for a second straight year. The shortfall affects the general fund portion of the budget, which stands at $31.8 billion for the biennium.

Landmark News Service contributed to this report.