Faced with declining revenues and a bleak economic forecast, Barry County Commissioners have some tough decisions to make in the coming weeks as they tackle the challenge of balancing the budget for 2009.
On Tuesday morning, the Commission announced that it would host an open forum to discuss the county's financial situation with the public. The event is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. next Tuesday, Jan. 20 at the Barry County Courthouse located on the square in Cassville.
"We'll be discussing our financial situation, and we'd like public input on the direction they feel we should take in the future," said Barry County Presiding Commis-sioner Cherry Warren. "We feel like in the situation we're in, we need to visit with the people. We're making no demands, just presenting information and wanting feedback."
Warren, Northern Commissioner Frank Washburn and new Southern Commissioner Wayne Hendrix will preside over the meeting, but other county officeholders will be present to answer any questions posed by the public.
Ultimately, it is the Commission that fine tunes the budget and approves the final document.
"We have to balance the budget; that is our responsibility," said Warren. "We've tried to run the county like a business, and we will continue to do that."
After a year that saw the county's sales tax revenue stagnate, county officials are predicting that sales tax totals will actually decline in 2009. The county is supported completed by a half-cent sales tax and fees.
To combat less revenue, the county must either find additional sources of revenue or cut services. It is this difficult choice that the Commission will be addressing at Tuesday's forum.
When asked if the Commission would be hosting additional meetings at other locations in the county, Warren said no decision on that possibility has been made.
"If people are interested and want us to have additional meetings in some of the outlying areas of the county, we will," said Warren, "but it will depend on the crowd we get next Tuesday night."
The Barry County Commission will also be holding a public hearing to review the 2009 budget at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 22 in the Courthouse in Cassville. This meeting is also open to the public.
"We're going to do the best with what we have," added Warren. "We just want the public to tell us what they want."