10/03/2008: "A Million Here, A Million There..Oops!"
County Auditor Milene Henley delivered revenue projections In a report to the Council for 2009 and revised projections for 2008 that added to the previous warnings that the County Council is overspending their budget.
Henley’s PowerPoint presentation of the history and projections of the budget indicated revenue and expenditures have been close to parallel In the past, but that time has, well, passed.
Decreases in revenue from taxes, resulting from decreases in new construction, real estate and retail sales may also indicate a lower collection rate for property taxes can be expected; all of which, Henley said, may decrease year-end total revenues to less than had been budgeted. Next year the decrease could be as high as 7%. Sometimes a small number can be a lot less, like a million dollars less than this years budget started off with.
Speaking of small numbers and sources of income, Henley gave one example of the problem the County is facing in raising money. She said that while only a 1% increase is allowed in property tax,1% would only produce $40,000 of revenue, which is “less than 2009 requested [budget] increases due to the cost of fuel and related expenses” alone.
Dedicated levies (another way to spell “tax”) to support Health programs and Criminal Justice related programs are a possible source of additional funding the Council could look at. The County is not the only one feeling the pinch, so the tax payer may look askance at any attempts to increase the take from property owners.
County Administrator Pete Rose has been gently applying pressure to the Council to deal with the problem by asking them to state what is important to them, or conversely, what are they willing to stop providing in the way of programs and services.
State law requires a balanced budget, so Rose and his staff will have to suggest cuts, and if the Council is unable to agree what to cut, the County will have to decrease the county reserves to a level the Auditor does not support.
Councilman Alan Lichter wondered if there were submerged costs to the County when they accepted and became involved in new programs that are grant funded. Rose said the grants pay their way without impacting the budget.
Rose told the Council that he will present them with a balanced budget in October as required by law, but told Council Members they would have to make difficult decisions about priorities, essential services and community values.