During a presentation of the tentative $569 million general fund budget at the commission’s Dec. 19 meeting, commissioners said they were not ready to make a decision on cuts crucial to balancing the fiscal year 2013 budget.
The decision to make cuts has been coming down the pike for months as the county is facing a more than $70 million shortfall in its revenue.
County officials have also proposed reduction in service days in health services, a 10 percent increase in environmental health fees and eliminating funding for preventative maintenance for capital assets.
Commissioners approved the tentative budget despite their hesitation to adopt those new policies – chiefly reduction in library hours and cutting funding for the nature centers. While the budget will go into effect Jan. 1, County Manager Zachary Williams said the policy changes won’t be effective until the final budget is adopted at the commissioner’s Jan. 23 meeting.
“The bottom line is, for the last 16 years, no matter what has been in the tentative budget, we haven’t taken any actions until the final budget passes,” he said.
Chairman John Eaves suggested that during the county’s Jan. 9 meeting, a final decision be made regarding the policy changes before the final budget must be adopted Jan. 23.
The county is anticipating bringing in only $528 million in revenue, leaving a $41 million difference that will have to be drawn from the county’s fund balance.
According to county Finance Director Patrick O’Connor, the fund balance, which was fattened in 2010 by an aggressive tax-collection campaign, has been rapidly dwindling during the downed economy.
In 2010, the fund balance jumped from $68 million to $156 million after revenues greatly surpassed expenditures, $636 million to $548 million, respectively.
“The picture changed dramatically in 2011,” he said.
Instead of adding to the coffers, the county had to tap into it.
“It was the first time in years we had to pull from the fund balance,” O’Connor said.
After pulling $24 million in 2011, $44 million in 2012 and now $41 million for 2013, the rainy day fund stands at $47 million.