A tight budget leaves Jefferson County with tough decisions

      After cuts to inpatient care at Cooper Green and moving the Bessemer courthouse, Jefferson County Commissioners say they're getting closer to having a budget ready by October, but hefty bankruptcy court fees and the lack of money to help departments in need is leaving county leaders with difficult decisions.

      The good news is the county came in under their adopted expenses this year, but the bad news is, it's facing a shortfall of close to $20 million. Part of that is $15 million in legal fees. County Manager Tony Petelos says if they receive a favorable ruling on the bankruptcy case, the budget will be close to balanced. if not, they will need to dip into their reserves.

      Wednesday, commissioners whittled down the requests by the departments for additional expenses. The Sheriff's Office needs extra patrol cars and deputies, but the cash needed just isn't all there. Commissioners say another critical need are gas inspectors - impacting the number of new home building projects the county can bring in. Commissioner Jimmie Stephens says, large departments- like roads and transportation, finances, i.t. and general services may face reductions.

      "Revenue is down tremendously because of the loss of the occupational tax," Jimmie Stephens, commissioner said. "As we adjust down the level of services down to that level of revenue, it's creating a great amount of stress."

      The next step is another budget meeting next Monday at 9 am.