Jefferson County says finances improving

By Alan Collins

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Jefferson County officials say the county's finances are improving.

County commissioners received an update Wednesday from acting Finance Director Travis Hulsey.

"We are encouraged," Hulsey said. "It looks like we have stabilized the financial situation for Jefferson County. Hopefully the economy is rebounding somewhat. I feel better than I did a year ago at this time."

Hulsey said the general fund operating budget is $43.8 million and the general fund cash reserve with the SEC settlement with JP Morgan is $21.7 million. The remaining $28.3 million is in an escrow account for occupational tax refunds.  

Commission President Bettye Fine Collins said the county must still be cautious.

"We told you all after April, once we have ad valorem taxes in the house, we could have a leveling off and we could have a decline," Collins said.

Collins says county employees may not get merit pay raises this year. A decision will be made in July.   

Commissioner Shelia Smoot said she believes future budget cuts may not be needed.

"I think we are still in the woods," Smoot said. "Not back or the middle of the woods but still in the woods. We need to continue to in the matter we got to this point."

Another big factor for Jefferson County finances will be a series of court cases, including one that could force the county to pay up to $50 million in refunds over the job tax and a legal challenge to the new occupational tax. Collins said any court loss will force budget troubles.

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