Budget cuts on horizon for county government | SummitDaily.com

Budget cuts on horizon for county government

SUMMIT COUNTY – A drop of nearly 10 percent in sales tax collection figures through March has Summit County government officials concerned that more budget cuts may be on the horizon for 2004.

Countywide sales tax collection figures for March were down nearly 13 percent from the same month last year, and a substantial economic rebound hardly appears imminent.

“We’re more worried this year because we’ve never had a decrease in sales tax like this,” county finance director Linda Gregory said when comparing this year’s budget preparations to those in 2002. “It’s a concern for county services.”

Despite a trend that could leave the county nearly $400,000 short of its expectations, Gregory said she did not expect any mid-year cutbacks along the lines of those experienced last year as a result of an inadequate fund balance.

She said county officials would review each position as it opens, however, and possibly reduce costs through attrition.

Gregory attributed the overall drop in revenue to a poor national economy and decreased consumer spending.

“Even when people come,” she said, “it doesn’t appear that people are spending the money they used to.”

In a presentation to the Board of County Commissioners, county manager Ron Holliday said his office planned to “attack 2004 similar to 2003,” with only minor changes.

This year, Holliday will request that department heads budget in accordance with actual 2001 revenues or the most current 2003 projections, whichever are less. Additionally, he will ask that they identify 4 percent of any budget they present as expendable should financial constraints prove cuts necessary, which is down 1 percent from the same request last year.

However, in a display of optimism also contrasting with 2002, Holliday will ask them to identify an additional 2 percent they could add to their request should favorable conditions permit.

He said the presentation of “102 percent budgets” would give the BOCC greater flexibility in allotting funds to the departments it chose and did not necessarily reflect the county’s belief that economic conditions would drastically change.

“One department may have to give up while another may gain a little,” Holliday said.

Commissioner Bill Wallace said it was unrealistic for many departments to expect any improvements in their financial situations.

“We’re going to have to do some cutting for 2004,” he said.

Holliday agreed, noting that overall budgetary guidelines would remain “very conservative.”

“It’s painful to have to face those realities, but we have to,” he said.

Aidan Leonard can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at aleonard@summitdaily.com.

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