Chambers County Faces $400,000 Budget Deficit

Things are not looking good financially for Chambers County, Alabama. Commissioners are working out the upcoming budget, and have found themselves hundreds of thousands of dollars in the red.

Chambers County has lost some population in recent years, and that's causing problems with the budget. The county manager is trying to overcome a $400,000 deficit while keeping essential programs, like the sheriff's office, afloat. For example, gas prices are suffocating the sheriff's office, along with trying to keep food on deputies' tables.

"We're constantly battling turnover. The deputies and young police officers will start out at one department, and after a year or two they'll leave and go to a bigger department that pays more. We're trying to get the pay up to be competitive," said Chief Deputy Tommy Weldon.

County Manager Don Hoyt said one reason there's a $400,000 deficit in the new budget is many textile mills have shut down, taking their property taxes with them.

"It appears that revenue is still declined, general fund revenue, ad valorem taxes primarily," said Hoyt.

There is projected growth for Chambers County, but it won't solve today's income crisis.

"There's the prospect for increased revenue in the future. But that's 10 years away assuming housing is gradually phased in over a period of years," Hoyt said.

Cutting every available corner will help, but Hoyt said it will take every person working together.

"If we continue to spend too much, pretty soon we're going to run out and have to start borrowing money. That's not a good deal at all," he said.

There is a bright side, at least for the sheriff's office. The county is restructuring its bonds, and Hoyt said they should be able to provide the jail with a new security system. They've also been able to move the courthouse annex from Valley to Lanett.