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Greene County Prepares for Budget Cuts After Loss at Polls

GREENE COUNTY, Mo. -- It's a bleak day for those responsible for running Greene County's government.
GREENE COUNTY, Mo. -- It's a bleak day for those responsible for running Greene County's government.

Commissioners say when numbers from the first few precincts started rolling in last night they knew their bid for a "Use tax" was in trouble. 

Greene County Commissioner Harold Bengsch says there were two budgets prepared for this coming Friday's budget meeting, and now the County knows which one they'll have to focus on.

"We have until January to adopt the budget," says Bengsch. 

County office holders and workers went into Tuesday's election with their glasses half full, but, they knew with the recent federal government shutdown, anti-government and anti-tax sentiment was high.

"They were preparing two budgets,” says Bengsch. “One as if the tax would have passed, one with the tax not passing. So obviously the one we're going to see is the one with it not passing. I don't know what it looks like, I haven't seen it."

Bengsch says in terms of cuts everything is on the table. 

"Not having this tax is going to have us by necessity look across the board at where reductions can be made," says Bengsch.

With the current budget numbers, commissioners say the county could be insolvent in a few years. 

Bengsch thinks some voters were operating under a misconception. 

 "Over the last five years there have been major reductions,” says Bengsch. “For example, well over $2 million have been cut from the budget. Almost 30 positions have been eliminated. So, major cuts have already been made in the budget. I think people thought if this doesn't pass I'll have to start making cuts that are completely wrong, those cuts have been made. We're scraping the bone now."

The County had already eliminated animal control in the county and a reduction in services from the University of Missouri Extension.
County workers have also not had any pay increase in six years and Bengsch says that is making the county a less competitive employer.

Bengsch says while people are seeing growth in building, the county is dealing with fewer people in the Planning and Zoning Department.

Bengsch fears their offices will be the one holding up progress as the economy rebounds. 

Bengsch also says they will have to return to voters on this issue in order to survive. 
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