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Budget expected to be lean for county

Imagine trying to tape together a jet airplane that’s falling apart.

That’s exactly what the Butler County Commission is trying to do with the county’s road system.

News on Monday was it could get worse.

Engineer Dennis McCall is already forecasting a lean year for the county’s road department. McCall’s budget request for fiscal year 2009-10 was $3.4 million, which is $1.5 million less then last year. McCall said the county is eliminating the purchase and scheduled rotation of new vehicles and trucks – a big portion of budget reductions – and payroll for the road department has already been decreased by an estimated $200,000 through attrition and retirement.

The good news is McCall sees no need for layoffs in the future. The county employs 39 workers in the road department.

The bad news is that the county’s roads still require immediate attention.

“The roads are basically over 50 years old,” said McCall. “The average life of an asphalted road is 50 years. We’re starting to see more road failures. We’re at the point – and we’ve been at the point for awhile – where we’re just trying to maintain and patch the roads.”

The commission reported general fund revenues were down four percent through the month of June. Revenue for the gasoline fund was 24 percent lower then budgeted, while the public highway and traffic fund was down 14 percent. The RRR gas tax fund was five percent lower then expected. The only positive was in the public buildings road and bridges fund, which saw a slight one percent increase.

Several of the commissioners alluded to comments made by Dr. David Bronner, CEO of the Alabama Retirement Systems, earlier this month, who said he expects 2011 and 2012 to be even tougher for state and local governments because federal stimulus money will have been exhausted by then. Alabama received nearly $3 billion in federal funding, which helped the legislature avoid cuts to personnel and programs.

On Monday, the majority of county departments requested level funding for fiscal year 2009-10.

The commission will finalize the budget in September.