While we prepare to celebrate a new year, the Harlan County Fiscal Court is halfway through our 2016 fiscal year. I am happy to report through November, our budget remains strong and on target. We have received 45 percent of projected revenues while spending just over 42 percent of the overall budget. This puts us right on track for this fiscal year. What makes this impressive is the fact we cut $1.7 million from our budget, and have stayed on target while doing more with less. Much discussion and planning by the fiscal court combined with dedicated department leaders has allowed us to maximize the efficiency of taxpayer dollars.
While that is all good news, coal severance revenues are down almost $200,000 compared to this time last year putting us on pace to receive around $950,000 this fiscal year, the lowest revenue point since 2001. While that number may seem like a substantial amount, consider 2012 when this number was $3.1 million. This represents the decline in the coal industry, and demonstrates the struggle the fiscal court, like many in the business community and coal industry, faces in attempting to maintain services while receiving less funding. Harlan Countians are resilient though and we have accepted these challenges head on as we work to improve the economy of our great county.
The Center for Rural Development has informed us that their Displaced Coal Miner Training Initiative has been expanded to include Harlan County. This program is providing retraining and re-employment services for displaced coal miners impacted by layoffs and coal mine closures. Anyone who has at least one year of continuous employment in the mining industry within the last five years, who has experienced a layoff, and who is currently unemployed or significantly under-employed may qualify for this program. If you would like to learn more about this program or how to enroll, call 606-677-6000. You can also visit the program’s website at http://dcmt.centertech.com.
I just wrapped up my first series of town hall meetings throughout Harlan County. The District 1 meeting was held at Bledsoe at the Green Hills Community/Senior Citizens Center, District 2 at the Closplint Church of God, District 3 at The Tri-City Senior Citizens Center, District 4 at the Smith Full Gospel Pentecostal Church, and District 5 at the Wallins Fellowship Center. More than 200 residents overall attended the evening meetings we had in these communities. Many ideas and suggestions were generated to address the different issues each community faces. I assure you, my staff and I are working to address the needs identified within the communities at these informative meetings. Some are within the control of county government and many are not and will require cooperation from the state government as well as the private sector. It is my hope to schedule another round of town hall meetings in the spring of 2016 at different locations again in each district.
Our office has also been busy writing grants over the past couple of months. We have applied for several state and federal grants including a SOAR Kentucky Appalachian Regional Development fund grant focused on economic development. We have also applied for an Appalachian Region Commission grant for a county tourism project. We are hopeful that these grants will be funded early in 2016. We will continue to try and seek out a wide array of grant opportunities. It is our hope that we will be successful in bringing in new revenue by being a county in the only rural Promise Zone in America.
I am happy to let you know that due to the hard work of our Harlan County Animal Shelter Advisory Board and Harlan County Friends of the Shelter, our local adoptions program has been re-opened at the animal shelter at Baxter. Animals that have been approved for adoption and rescue are available to be viewed in a binder at the shelter. The Animal Shelter Advisory Board has setup some stringent criteria that must be met in order for a person to be eligible to participate in the adoption program. This criterion was established to protect the animals, potential pet owners, and to help control the pet population in our county. I applaud the members of both organizations for their work on this project, as this was one of the things I personally wanted to see re-implemented for the public. If you are interested in adopting a pet, stop in at the Animal Shelter at Baxter, or call 606-573-8867.
Although we have enjoyed unseasonably warm weather during the month of December, we certainly know that winter will eventually arrive. The Harlan County Road Department has been preparing for winter over the past several weeks. We received our first shipment of salt in early December and presently have on hand a little over 1,000 tons. A sentiment that I share with many of you I am sure, I certainly hope we can avoid anything like the type of weather we experienced in mid-February to early March in 2015.
The Harlan County Fiscal Court was proud to sponsor the Jordan Smith Community Homecoming Celebration in downtown Harlan. It was great to see so many people in attendance to celebrate Jordan’s win! People that I personally met came to Harlan County from Indiana, Tennessee, Virginia, Texas, Florida and Georgia to be part of this celebration. We are so proud of his accomplishments and can’t wait to see his musical career continue to develop in the future. Jordan is an inspiration to all of us. He has proved that no matter where you are from or what challenges you face, that no goal is too high if you work hard to achieve that goal. His amazing performances throughout “The Voice” were truly representative of the type of wonderful talent that we have here in Harlan County. I think his journey was an answered prayer in a time in our region that has been a dark one due to the economic hardships we have encountered.
I certainly hope that each of you had a good peaceful Christmas and I pray that 2016 is a healthy and prosperous one for you and your family. If you need or want to contact me, you can call my office at 573-2600. You can email me at [email protected] or write to me P.O. Box 956 Harlan, KY. 40831. As always, I would love to hear from you. Also, feel free to drop in and see me any time I can be of assistance. My office is located on the top floor of the old courthouse. Thank you!