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Brunswick County takes steps to pinch pennies

Brunswick County finance officer Ann Hardy is beginning to see what are likely economy-related trends in the county's revenue tabulations and will be making recommendations to county commissioners to change the current fiscal year's budget to reflect the trends.

The county's sales tax revenue in November and December fell $1.2 million short of budget, and property tax collections are running 2 percent, or $2 million, below last year's collection rate.

"Both of those are significant, and we're going to have to work with the board about what to do," Hardy said.

It is impossible to say now how the nation's economic situation might affect the next fiscal year's budget because of the shifting nature of events, but commissioners and top county administrators likely will follow the past year's trends and take a conservative line when formulating the new budget.

Right now, administrators are looking closely at every expenditure with an even more penurious eye than in the past.

For instance, county commissioners will hold their annual budget retreat March 17-19 in the new county administration building rather than at a rented, off-site location as in the last few years.

Hardy said the savings based on the cost the last couple of years is only about $1,000 for space rental and food, but that's enough.

As for the options commissioners could get for adjusting this year's budget, Hardy said one possibility would be to make permanent the current deferments on capital expenditures and hiring.

The shift would change little as far as day-to-day expenses are concerned, but it would lower the revenue intake necessary to fund the budget.