FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Charlotte, N.C. – Mecklenburg County Manager Harry L. Jones Sr. today presented a $1.3 billion annual budget that would cut $81.1 million from the FY10 Adopted Budget, a 5.7 percent reduction.
The recommended budget would eliminate 424 full-time and 67 part-time jobs and result in 357 employee layoffs – the largest number at one time for the County. The proposed budget maintains the current property tax rate of 83.87 cents per $100 valuation. It also maintains the current property tax rate of 17.88 cents for the Law Enforcement Service District (LESD) in unincorporated areas used to pay for police services in these areas.
“Although the economy is recovering, we have to face the brutal fact that we will not have enough revenue to pay for the services we currently provide,” said Jones. “We are facing a new fiscal reality that is not going to change any time soon.”
Jones also identified this new reality as an opportunity to redefine and reshape Mecklenburg County government.
What is needed, Jones said, is a budget that supports a strategic path “to preserve the core of County government and stimulate progress.” He said his strategy has three components:
• Reduce programs, services and personnel to match available funding
• Maintain long-term fiscal discipline
• Redesign and reshape Mecklenburg County government.
“I regret having to make recommendations that will result in people – through no fault of their own – losing their jobs,” Jones said. “But I have a responsibility to propose a budget that is both responsive to community needs and affordable for taxpayers.”
Jones identified the following five key decisions he thinks the Board must make in implementing this strategic path:
1. Confirming revenue projections: Jones recommends establishing a new baseline for sales tax projections to ensure actual revenues meet or exceed budgeted projections. This would help avoid making mid-year cuts that occurred during the last two fiscal years. The recommended budget projects the County will receive $10.8 million a month in actual sales tax revenue for FY2011, about76 percent of the original sales tax budget for FY2010.
2. Rebuilding fund balance: The FY2011 recommended budget includes a $14.6 million to rebuild fund balance, the County’s savings account. This would replenish money spent from fund balance this year to address a budget gap. Jones called on the Board to rebuild the County’s fund balance as part of implementing long-term fiscal discipline.
3. Paygo and other capital spending: Consistent with Board policy, the recommended budget includes $29.3 million – the value of 3 cents of the County’s property tax – in the County’s Paygo Fund. Of this total, $16.2 million would remain undesignated for spending in FY2011 to build a reserve. Jones also recommends that the County suspend indefinitely incurring any new debt until the Board reassesses its capital infrastructure priorities.
4. Employee compensation: The FY2011 recommended budget proposes cuts of $16.9 million in employee compensation, which comprises pay and benefits. This includes a recommendation to freeze employee pay at current levels for the second consecutive year, continue the suspension of the County’s 5 percent match to employee 401(k)/457 deferred compensation accounts, and pass on additional health and dental insurance costs to employees.
5. Change in retiree benefits policy: Jones is asking the Board to change County policy to halt retiree health care benefits for employees hired after July 1, 2010.
“Our future will be different from our past,” Jones said. “Therefore, we must seize this opportunity to envision a new future and to invent it.”
A public hearing on the County Manager’s recommended budget will take place at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 27, 2010, in the Meeting Chamber of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center at 600 E. Fourth St. It will be televised live on the Government Channel (Time Warner Cable Channel 16), and streamed live at www.MecklenburgCountyNC.gov. Residents who wish to speak at the hearing are encouraged to sign up in advance by calling 704-336-2086, or they can sign up online by going to www.mecklenburgcountync.gov.
Media contact: Danny Diehl at 704-336-2084 (O), or 704-572-1035 (mobile), or Daniel.Diehl@MecklenburgCountyNC.gov