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Commissioners freeze spending

Commissioners froze county spending for the next 30 days on Thursday, a temporary move aimed at reducing cash flow worries.

Friday, February 16, 2001

Commissioners froze county spending for the next 30 days on Thursday, a temporary move aimed at reducing cash flow worries.

The spending freeze does not include payroll or emergency purchases. Although it affects county government offices, the freeze should not affect services used by the public, commissioners said.

"We’re just now feeling the full effect of the job loss in recent years," commission president Paul Herrell said. "We’re looking ahead to get ahead."

The action came after County Auditor Ray Dutey and deputy auditor Chris Kline updated commissioners on the county’s cash balance.

The beginning balance this year was $807,692.26. The balance Thursday was $83,530.

Revenues are not coming into the county at the same rate as expenses paid by the county right now, Kline said.

Month-to-date receipts total $330,726.44, while expenditures total $674,537.06.

Tax bills have only been in taxpayers’ hands for about three to four weeks and the deadline to pay them is March 9, so it will be at least May before that money will be seen, Dutey said.

"It’s not a budget problem; the budget’s fine," he said. "It’s a cash flow problem."

Normally, the carryover takes care of county offices’ expenses until the first half of tax collections come in over the spring, but this year the job losses and resulting slow economy seems to be taking its toll, Dutey said.

Commissioners agreed, adding that the spending freeze is necessary to make sure the county does not continue to spend more than it takes in during the short-term.

In 30 days, the auditor’s office will update the commissioners, "and then we’ll see how far we have to go," Herrell said in making the motion for the freeze.

Purchase orders currently on file in the auditor’s office will be returned for the commissioners to determine what will be labeled an emergency expenditure, Kline said.

Dutey said expenses must be held down until the revenue gets built back up, but the situation is not as serious as times in the mid-1980s when funding shortfalls prompted office shutdowns.

"After we get the first half of tax collections, we’ll be all right," Dutey said. "But we’ve got to stay within budget."

Tight funding is not a new problem in courthouse halls.

Last year, commissioners held the county budget at 1999 levels, plus a 5 percent salary increase. This year, they approved a budget containing a 12 percent overall cut.

Commissioners have said they hope new industry, such as Liebert Inc., and proposed industry, such as a power plant in Hanging Rock and companies interested in a South Point industrial park, will help reduce the county’s economic downturn.