County commissioners enact purchasing freeze, discuss other cost-saving measures

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By Caroline Curran, Reporter

BOLIVIA—To avoid tapping into the county’s fund balance and to stay out of the red for the remainder of the fiscal year, county commissioners have frozen all purchase orders from county operating and capital outlay funds.

The only allowable exception is for emergencies or for equipment repairs needed to continue services.

County finance director Ann Hardy and county manager Marty Lawing presented commissioners with cost-saving options at the last of their three-day budget retreat last week in Bolivia.

But before presenting commissioners with options, Lawing said none of the options are desirable, least of which for commissioners was reducing the county’s workforce.

All commissioners agreed, at this point, eliminating anything but vacant positions is something they’re not ready to do, so they opted to freeze purchase orders.

“That’s the last thing we want to do,” commissioners chairman Bill Sue said.

“I think we need to look at the purchase orders,” commissioner Scott Phillips said.

“Unless it’s an essential need, I think we need to hold the line on that.”

Not filling the 38 vacant county positions would save the county $1.5 million in the general fund, while eliminating 92 positions would keep an extra $3.4 million in the general fund.

“That’s really a policy position, too. We all face people on the street that have to lay people off. How does it look when everyone has to cut back but the county?” Lawing said.

Eliminating 75 percent of the current budget for overtime, “pager pay” and callback pay, including benefits would save $1.8 million in the general fund, $358,724 in the water fund and another $121,081.

Eliminating 50 percent of the current budget for temporary employees would save the county $627,570.

Commissioners agreed to present options to department heads for them to decide which cost-saving option works best for their department.

Property tax collection, at a projected 94 percent collection rate, is expected to bring in $92.2 million, Hardy explained. Motor vehicle tax collections, with an 85.4 percent anticipated collection rate, is expected to bring in $2.3 million, about $837,000 less than last fiscal year.

While county commissioners approved continuing its 36.5 percent funding agreement with Brunswick County Schools, the agreement was amended to have the schools share in the county’s deficit. The school system is expected to receive about $1.2 million less than originally budgeted for the fiscal year.

Emergency medical services’ revenue is expected to increase over last fiscal year to $2.5 million.

But while the county’s economic situation is grim, Hardy said an 11th-hour hero could be the county’s sales tax proceeds.

“Sales tax is the big unknown. It’s varied so much from month to month. A decent few months of sales tax [revenue] could pull us right out,” Hardy said.