Julia Roberts Goad
PIKEVILLE, Ky. — Pike County Judge Executive Wayne T. Rutherford submitted a budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year, which, due to the downturn of revenue from the coal industry, has “deep, across-the-board reductions in each and every department and area of county government.”
Rutherford submitted the budget to the Pike County Fiscal Court, which has until mid-June to approve the budget.
Cut to line items eligible for reduction in the proposed budget totaled $3,297,766, a 17 percent cut.
“I have proposed a balanced budget through vast, ominous and unfortunate reduction that must be made based on our current revenue,” Rutherford said. “We have done what we must.”
A look at coal production in Pike County from 1993 until 2012 shows a steady decline. In 1993, coal production topped 37,000,000 tons. That tonnage had fallen to 12,930,000 by 2012, a loss of 62 percent. Eastern Kentucky coal production is at its lowest level since 1965, decreased 27.6 percent from 2011 to 2012.
In the last year alone,1,211 mining jobs in the county have been lost, 34 percent of all miners in the county.
But Pike County is not alone.
In 2011, there were 13,608 coal mining jobs in Eastern Kentucky. But by 2012, there were only 9,540, a loss of 4,068 jobs. Total coal production in 2011 decreased by more than 15 percent in 15 Eastern Kentucky counties.
One of the factors contributing to the decline in coal production, according to Judge Rutherford’s office, is the Environmental Protection Agency “prohibiting the production and marketing of coal mined in eastern Kentucky and West Virginia.” That office also cited waivers being granted to coal mining states other than Kentucky and West Virginia, mild winters which require less electricity and the coal used to produce it, and the Obama administration’s so-called ‘War on Coal.’
“Coal has been and continues to be the lifeblood of Pike County’s economy,” Rutherford said. “However, the coal industry has taken many hurtful licks.”
The upshot of the decline of the coal industry is, of course that revenue from coal severance tax is decreased. Since July 2011, severance tax receipts have dropped by 39 percent.
But Kentucky statute requires county judges submit a balanced budget, which Rutherford did on May 1. The review and acceptance of that budget now rests with the judge and the six county magistrates.
Judge Rutherford said the cuts to the county’s budget are reflective of the decisions made by the citizens of the county in their personal lives.
“The situation facing county government is no different than that of an average family in Pike COunty who is fighting to survive because a family member has been laid off,” he said. “Just like those families who are sitting around their kitchen tables contemplating how they will make it, the Fiscal Court must confront the same type of problems in order to make ends meet.”
Rutherford said the budget scenario he submitted is not reflective of the county government he wants, but is necessary for the county to survive with no addition revenue sources.
“Each and every one of us who is proud to call our county home understands the circumstances we must face are not of our own doing,” Rutherford said. “But in the face of difficulty, we will find a way to face it - as the people of the mountains have always done.”