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Losses outweigh gains; county downsizes revenue projections, cuts jobs

San Juan County is expecting a bit of a boost to its bottom line, but not enough to cancel out a nagging shortfall in anticipated revenue, or to  prevent another round of workforce reductions.

On Tuesday, the county's administrative team will offer up for tentative approval of the County Council a series of 2011 budget amendments that together either eliminate or trim the hours of slightly more than six full-time positions, and that lower spending from the county's general fund by about $314,000 overall.

That's in spite of a recent uptick in building permit fees and in sales tax receipts, according to Deputy Administrator David Kelley.

"Sales tax was up 38 percent in July compared to what we had a year ago in July," Kelley said. "It's not just here. In talking with the (state) Department of Revenue they said that sales tax was up in July across the state. And Rene Beliveau (building official) said that July was the best month that we've had in the last 18."

Still, recent gains won't make up for the lack of anticipated revenue that failed to materialize over the first six months of the year.

The amendments include a $423,000 scale-back in revenue generated by the Community Development and Planning Department and a lowering of sales tax receipts to the tune of $182,000 for the year.

Kelley said the package of amendments will help offset a projected revenue deficit totaling roughly $620,000 for the balance of 2011.

The amendments will also include, he noted, a total of nearly $315,000 in unanticipated revenue, highlighted by $110,530 in state reimbursements for local court costs and $100,000 in combined penalties and interest generated by removal of 18 parcels from the county's "current use" property-tax-break programs.

The county's payroll expenses have been whittled down by roughly 14 percent over the past three years.

Kelley said that by reducing spending through additional job cuts that county officials hope to lessen the pressure on the general fund in the coming year and avoid tapping into its "operating cash", or reserves, which, at $1.3 million, is equivalent to 10 percent of the county current portion of the 2011 general fund.

"If we didn't, we be dipping into that 10 percent," Kelley said of the package of spending reductions. "And we don't want to do that."

The package of 2011 budget amendments include: elimination of an accounting position in the auditor's office and one job in the community development and planning department; delay in hiring two deputies and dispatcher; a $10,000 reduction in the hearing examiner budget, leaving a part-time public health post vacant and a 10 percent reduction in hours of juvenile court personnel.

The county began the year with a "current" fund totaling $13.7 million in budgeted revenue and expenses, and another $2.6 million in state and federal grants, for a $16.3 million general fund overall.

That fund covers the bulk of daily expenses for 24 distinct departments, including payroll.

Combined with various other county funds, such as roads ($8 million), land bank ($3.9 million), equipment rental ($3.8 million), bond redemption ($3 million) and solid waste ($2.6 million) the general fund accounts for $16.3 million in spending as part of a county budget that totals $47.3 million overall.

 

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