By MIKE WEST, Courier Editor
As the end of the fiscal year approaches, Cannon Commissioners find themselves in a real dilemma with insufficient funds to cover the cost of state loans in its General Fund.
Following the regular County Commission meeting Thursday (May 7), County Executive Mike Gannon held an informal session to brief commissioners about the situation involving what is called General Fund Tax and Revenue Anticipation Notes (TRANs).
After some discussion, a decision was reached to restrict spending in an attempt to pay back the state funds.
During the meeting, Gannon shared a letter received from Sandra Thompson, director of State and Local Finance for the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury office.
"Our office received Cannon County's notification that if the county repays its outstanding General Fund Tax and Revenue Anticipation Notes (TRANs), the fund will not have sufficient cash receipts to operate through June 30th," Thompson said.
"We have identified some issues that have attributed to this condition:
1.The county spends more cash than it receives.
2.The county does not have sufficient beginning cash to manage its cash flows for fiscal years 2015 and 2016.
3.The county cannot meet its debt obligations for the General Fund unless it drastically restricts services and significantly cuts government operations.
4.The county will be unable to pay its General Fund expenditures in the months July through January and March through July for fiscal year 2016, even if it defaults on its outstanding $322,454 General Fund TRANs based on its fiscal year 2015 Statement of Monthly Cash Flow Analysis."
Cannon County has basically two options: Repay the TRANs or default on the TRANs, Thompson said.
Basically, it's a cash flow problem, Gannon told the commissioners. TRANs are basically a short-term loan from state funds that helps local government meet their obligations until tax revenues start coming in.
"What brought this letter on was that I contacted them about our situation," Gannon said. "And six weeks later they got back to us."
"We need to tell them what our plan is," explained Diane Hickman of the County Executive's Office.
"A number of counties are in the same condition we are," said Gannon, adding that it was vital for Cannon County to keep government services going.
"What can we do without?" asked Commissioner Brent Bush.
"The Ambulance Service and the Sheriff's Department are the two most important agencies under the General Fund," Gannon said. Others include all the Courthouse offices, the Election Commission, REACH and the a very small part of the funding for Adams Library.
Can priorities be set, like limiting sheriff patrols for two weeks? Bush asked.
Gannon said a better approach is dealing with each department under the General Fund and telling them to curtail spending. He is also considering an early end to project REACH after school services.
"Here's the way it looks now. We will cut where ever we can and not buy anything. I really believe that by the end of the day, we won't owe $322,000," Gannon said.
"We will do everything possible to pay that off by the end of June," the county executive added.
"We need to dig down and try to help anyway we can during the next seven weeks," agreed Commissioner Glenn Steakley. "This is the hard hand we've been dealt."
Budget shortfalls have been an increasing problem the last few years, Gannon said.
Commissioner Richie Hunter said he has been approached by several voters about the funding issue. "Some people are anticipating a tax increase next year," Hunter said.