Counties looking at budget cuts due to dwindling coal severance money

By: Katie Roach Email
By: Katie Roach Email

HAZARD, Ky (WYMT) - It is no secret that coal production is down in some eastern Kentucky counties, and less production means less coal severance money for counties in the area.

Coal severance money is used to fund anything from county road departments, jails, fire departments and special projects like the Sportsplex in Knott County.

Knott County Deputy Judge Executive Greg Mullins says the county has lost about $1.2 million this year.

"When coal severance funds were abundant we started projects and the county was growing, like the ATV Center and the Sportsplex," said Mullins.

Mullins now fears the payroll for people who work at these places may be cut along with other services in the county that people depend on.

In Harlan County, Judge Executive Joe Grieshop says at this time they will not have to make any layoffs.

He says he anticipated the loss in coal severance funding, but the dwindling coal severance is causing them to make adjustments in their budget especially in the road department.

"Some new equipment will have to wait, and the amount of blacktop that we put down all of those things come into play," said Grieshop.

But he worries about the future of coal production. He says if the funds keep getting smaller it will cause significant problems in the county.

State Representative Fitz Steele has pre-filed legislation that would keep 100 percent of coal severance money in the counties where it was produced, but critics say it is not likely to pass.

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