BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. - Budgets are back on the chopping block in Sullivan County -- we've learned the county's mayor is asking all departments to scale back by five percent.
News 5 sat down with the mayor and discovered this is not a mandate, but a note he's sent out for the past few years, reminding officials that in order to keep finances floating costs must go down somewhere.
It takes $1.6 million to keep the Sullivan County property assessor's office running, and that budget is barely enough to get by. "Last year, we cut back five percent and if we keep cutting, it's going to hurt," said Bob Icenhour, Sullivan County's property assessor.
In a letter sent to all Sullivan County department heads and elected officials, Mayor Steve Godsey is asking for an attempt to cut at least five percent from current budgets.
Godsey said the county still hasn't recovered from a sour economy, and there's the need to plan for future costs. "When you've got an impending lawsuit hanging out there that you have no idea what it could cost you, it's very difficult to set a budget," said Godsey.
Rising gas prices continue to pinch the county's pocket, and this year fuel costs are as big of a concern as ever when it comes to the budget. "The highway department, sheriff's department, EMS -- they do burn a lot of fuel and those extra dollars do have to come from somewhere," Godsey explained.
Godsey went on to say even a one or two percent cut could go along way. The only problem is some wonder where even the barebones of cost reduction would come from. "In order for us to even cut one or two percent, we have to lay off someone," said Icenhour, "this being reappraisal year, we need everybody we have plus."
The election commission has already closed some precincts and cut 40 poll workers. "To cut where we are already is absolutely impossible," said Jason Booher, Sullivan County Election Administrator.
But when it comes to taxpayer dollars some feel it's worth the effort. "If they can do it without hurting the services, that would be a good idea," said Troy Taylor, a Sullivan County resident.
More financial facts:
Last year's county budget was $166 million, and we learned most of that came from property taxes.
Right now we're told there is about a million dollars in reserve, but that's the cost of only one pay-period.