Thursday, August 28, 2008

County Says Financial Problems Loom Within 2-3 Years

Garry Earls, head of operations, issued a memo to department heads saying the county's general fund would be insolvent between 2010 and 2012. The current county budget is $504.9 million, up over 2.8% over last year. The main sources of revenue is property and sales tax.

Earls recently put restrictions on travel, purchases of over $1,000, a halt to discretionary spending, a review of cell phone use, and termination of all but critical contracts with consulting services.

Earl admits these policies alone will not fix the structural problems; however, they will help.

Bob Frohne, a sergeant with the county police department and president of the officers association, said Earls' "doom and gloom scenario" would undercut the association's request for higher pay. Midrange pay for county officers is about $52,000.

This past spring police and their supporters picketed the county's administration building demanding better benefits and higher salaries. Frohne cited a financial analysis that the association paid for which shows that the county's general fund revenues are in good shape.

He cited the county's general fund unreserved balance of about 25 percent of annual revenues and annual expenditures, saying balances in the single digits are adequate for the maintenance of a AAA bond rating. Earls countered that, healthy or not, unreserved fund balances cannot be tapped at to cover shortfalls in other areas. He said the general public probably would not notice the budget restraints.

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