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Another round of Pierce County budget cuts?

Post by David Wickert on April 26, 2010 at 3:47 pm | 7 Comments »
April 26, 2010 3:47 pm

Pierce County’s financial situation remains tenuous even after the County Council approved a $4.9 million budget cut this month.

At a council budget meeting Monday, county budget director Patrick Kenney wouldn’t rule out another round of cuts later this year. Next year also looks tough, Kenney said.

“As of now, I wouldn’t recommend you do anything,” Kenney said when asked about the possibility of another budget cut this year. “But we need more data.”

It’s been a tough year for Pierce County’s budget. After a series of budget cuts last year, the council this month cut another $4.9 million from the county’s $269.3 million general fund budget. That will mean cuts to popular programs like 4-H and staff cuts in some departments.

But the county’s latest financial report shows that wasn’t enough to bridge a projected $5.6 million the gap between budgeted spending and shrinking county revenue.

Kenney said it’s too soon to know whether more cuts will be needed. He said several factors will determine whether the council should trim spending again. Among them:

• The extent to which property taxes are paid on time. Taxes for the first half of the year are due Friday.

• The level of taxable sales activity in the county.

• Whether some federal economic stimulus program grants are extended.

• Planning and building permit activity.

Kenney said the county should know whether another round of cuts is needed by early July.

Meanwhile, planning already is beginning for next year’s budget. Because of a scheduled 2.5 percent raise for employees, an expected jump in pension costs, rising health insurance costs and general inflation, Kenney said it would take a 3.4 percent increase in spending just to maintain current county programs and services next year.

Department heads will begin preparing preliminary budgets with that figure in mind. But Kenney said there’s “absolutely no guarantee that when we get down to it we can afford that.

“We have no guarantee that our revenue will grow 3.4 percent,” he told the council.

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