Kanawha commissioners look at upcoming budget

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Kanawha County Commission is not recommending immediate spending cuts or freezes in next fiscal year’s budget, but changes regarding the county’s workforce are possible.

During the body’s meeting last week, commissioners discussed the estimated $56 million proposal, a decrease from the county’s current $57.3 million budget. Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper noted the county has saved money by switching from private insurance to Public Employees Insurance Agency plans, changes with jail payments and years of cash management.

“We are in a position to do what we have to do,” he said. “At no point are we sitting talking about are we going to have to do this, might have to do that. We’re in a position to monitor this.”

Coal severance tax revenue is down by around 50%, but Carper said the commission has planned for decreases, mentioning seven consecutive years of passing a flat budget.

“Some of that is probably due to COVID, but who knows,” he said. “Could you imagine if we had let our budget tick up two or three percent in the last five, six or seven years? What we do now? There’s not enough CARES money in the world to bail that out is there.”

Carper said there are plans to reduce some positions and downgrade others, but hiring freezes and layoffs are not being proposed.

“The commission decided to act by example,” he explained. “We’re cutting at least one position and downgrading another one. It’s probably over $100,000 (in savings) a cut.”

Commissioners noted the budget for the 2022-2023 fiscal year will be “more brutal.”