Kent must cut expenses

Based on current revenue estimates, Kent County officials are facing cuts of $7.5 million in expenditures from their 2011 general fund budget.

County Administrator and Controller Daryl Delabbio said every department manager has been told to reduce expenses by 5 percent for the budget that will go into effect Jan. 1.

“They may have to cut staff or eliminate programs,” said Commissioner Harold Voorhees.

“There are 15 or 16 positions that are budgeted, but have not been filled, and that’s countywide,” said Delabbio.

But Delabbio also said what will be cut is being left up to the managers, as their job is to reduce the fund’s deficit from a projected $9.5 million to $2 million — a gap that will be filled by the fund’s balance. Expenses have been estimated for next year at $172.6 million, while revenue to the fund has been projected at $163.1 million.

“That’s our best guess right now,” said Delabbio of revenue. “This is also dependent on what the state does. We don’t know what revenue sharing holds for us.”

The 2011 revenue figure is down by $2 million from the current budget’s estimate partially because next year’s budget will empty the county’s revenue-sharing reserve fund. The account’s final $4.5 million is going into the 2011 budget, along with an estimated $3.6 million that is listed as “sales tax” under the fund’s revenue column. That $8.1 million is 20 percent below the $10.2 million the county transferred into this year’s budget from the revenue-sharing reserve.

A portion of the local receipts from the state’s 6 percent sales tax fund a municipality’s revenue-sharing payment. The county is scheduled to begin receiving those annual payments next year after a four-year hiatus.

Members of the county’s Finance Committee adopted a set of guidelines last week that will be followed to create the 2011 general fund. Those guidelines call for a no-growth budget, zero-based budgeting, a continued moratorium on new positions that require general-fund dollars, and a reduction in the set aside for capital improvements.

Normally, the county sets aside 0.20 mills from its operating millage for property maintenance and capital improvements. Last year that was reduced to 0.15 mills, which generated $2.8 million. But last week, at the urging of Commissioners Jim Talen and Dick Bulkowski, the committee agreed to let the number fall to 0.10 mills, or $1.8 million, if necessary.

Talen suggested making the change in order to potentially capture an additional $1 million for the general fund. Commissioners Dean Agee and Roger Morgan were against lowering the amount.

Delabbio told the committee they should obtain preliminary budgets from department heads next month.

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