EDITORIAL: County Is Feeling Economic Pinch
Moore County government, like the rest of us, is getting acquainted with a different kind of "trickle-down" economics these days.
Wall Street meltdowns, government bailouts, credit market freeze-ups, mortgage foreclosures, alarming sags in the housing market -- none of these are remote things on the evening news, as we're all learning. Their impact makes itself felt way down from the top and has the potential of profoundly affecting our lives down here at the community level.
Local entities, public as well as private, are all having to look at various immediate and future belt-tightening mandates and wondering how many more notches. That prominently includes the county, as became all too clear at last week's meeting of the Moore County Board of Commissioners.
'Everything We Have To'
Refinancing of bonded indebtedness, delays in filling short-term employee vacancies (longer-term ones won't even be filled in the current fiscal ear), clampdowns on overtime and likely delays in much-anticipated capital projects were among the major budget-cutting steps that County Manger Cary McSwain outlined at the meeting. "We'll cut out everything we have to," he said.
Energy costs will be monitored more closely. Some county employees can already be heard grumbling about having to curtail cell phone use and keep their mileage under better control, although they understand the reasons for such measures. All departments are being told to develop contingency plans for deeper cuts.
That's on the expense side. McSwain had earlier warned the commissioners to gird for probable reductions in on the revenue end. Examples are drops in fees collected at the Register of Deeds office and the Planning office -- both of which depend on a steady turnover of real-estate properties and a predictable level of business development, and both of which are off at the moment and show few signs of improving.
To help offset that, McSwain said the county would be spending more time on researching and applying for various grants. Every little bit of money coming in helps.
So how is all this likely to trickle down even further, to Moore County residents? For one thing, some of them may have to face cutbacks in various county services they have been receiving.
The good news is that the county seems determined not to raise the property tax rate next year. But many already-strapped taxpayers may view it as bad news that comments were made at the commissioners' meeting about looking at another property revaluation. The reason for examining that option is that, bad economy or no, some property values have gone up considerably since last year. A revaluation, besides perhaps producing more county revenue, can also have the effect of distributing the load more equitably among neighborhoods.
Sure to undergo re-examination in the current atmosphere are the ambitious plans for a big new public safety and jail expansion on a recently purchased tract in downtown Carthage. As much as it is needed, it may have to go on the shelf for a while.
Planning for exciting expansions in good times is a lot more fun than having to cut corners when things turn bad. But it has to be done. The county commissioners and administration are to be commended for planning ahead on what bullets might have to be bitten instead of getting caught by surprise later.
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