County Faces Belt-Tightening Budget
No tax rate increase is on the horizon for the county next year, provided county budget makers succeed in developing a belt-tightening budget.
County Manager Cary McSwain outlined his strategies for budget reductions in a three-page presentation to the Moore County Board of Commissioners Monday. Among the strategies are delays in filling employee vacanies, curbing overtime expenditures, delays in capital projects and refinancing bonded indebtedness.
"We'll cut out everything we have to," McSwain said.
Board Chairman Colin McKenzie suggested an earlier preparation of the 2009-10 budget and added that the county should think about property reappraisal, in light of recent economic downturns. He said that some property valuations were considerably higher last year.
McSwain said work was actually begun on the new budget in September. He distributed a tentative budget schedule that calls for adoption of the budget ordinance as early as the June 1 board meeting.
The budget schedule also calls for the county to hold three budget public forums, all to be held in April at different parts of the county, including Vass, Westmoore and the Senior Enrich-ment Center near Pinehurst.
In his presentation, McSwain said county government must be more proactive in developing a budget meeting current financial circumstances. At a previous meeting, he advised the commissioners of expected decreases in various sources of revenue, including drops in fees collected by the Register of Deeds and Planning offices.
McSwain said the new budget would be developed according to "stringent, conservative budget revenue projections commensurate with the economy, financial markets and comprehensive financial analysis."
Cost-saving measures undertaken at this time include monitoring energy costs, reduction in use of cell phones, and the setting of fuel allocations for vehicles. All vacant positions must remain vacant at least 30 days, and long-term vacancies will not be filled in this fiscal year.
To offset projected revenue losses, McSwain said that grant research and grant applications would be given a higher than ever priority.
McSwain said all county departments, agencies, the public schools, college and all other entities, such as nonprofits, are being told to develop budgets fitting revenue projections with no tax increase.
"If any of these measures or any others that must in the future be added from urgent necessity seem draconian, please measure these against furloughs, layoffs, program elimination and many other possible considerations if our economy continues to drop into the trough of recession," McSwain said in his report.
The manager said this is not a new mission or a new direction.
"It is what we do and should do every day," McSwain said. "Circumstances are more demanding of us and we must respond with innovation and creativity in order to continue to meet our mandates and critical needs."
McKenzie expressed concern about the building of new facilities planned for a tract of land purchased by the county last year. The acreage in downtown Carthage is to be the site for a jail expansion, a public safety complex and a new office building.
"I've been assured it won't affect them, but I'm not all that confident," McKenzie said.
The commissioners will concentrate on the budget during their planning retreat in January.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at 947-4962 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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