County Looking at Increasing Revenues/Decreasing Expenses

The Mason County Commission is looking at ways to increase revenue and/or decrease expenses as they deal with lower than expected ending fund balance in this year’s budget. The Commissioners were briefed on this issue Tuesday. The County’s Director of Support Services, Frank Pinter, summarized the problem at the beginning of the briefing saying the County’s cash on hand was down to $170,000 at one point last month before property taxes started to come in.

Pinter went on to summarize the options the County has to increase revenues which includes a levy shift, a property tax lid lift, a criminal Justice levy and a public safety sales tax (all of which would require voter approval) as well as increasing fees and service charges, and implementing a false alarm policy and nuisance program.

Among the options for reducing expenses are reconsidering eligibility for medical benefits for part time employees and double benefits for two employee families, allow leave buyout and staff or service reductions.

A few years ago, the County had more than $8 Million in reserves. At the last “Cash Flow” briefing on March 14th, the Commissioners wanted to know how that money was spent. Tuesday, Pinter provided the answer.

The Commissioners were NOT too supportive of a levy shift or lid lift but do want to be briefed on the subjects. If the County were to ask for voter approval, they would need to do so  in August. To make the Primary Election Ballot, the Commissioners would need to take action in May.

The Commission does want to move forward with increasing fees and service charges, implementing false alarm policy, and reconsidering eligibility for medical benefits for part time employees and two employee families.

As for reductions in staff and/or services or a possible hiring freeze, which could mean leaving open positions (reportedly ten countywide) vacant (likely hitting the Sheriff’s Office the hardest), the Commissioners will be asking other elected officials and department heads to look at ways they might be able to make cuts in their budgets before any layoffs or service reduction.

Since property taxes are paid twice a year, the County could face another low cash reserve situation in August or September. Pinter would like the Commissioners to adjust policies to have at least three months of cash reserves on hand at all times. However, staff will be ready with an inter-fund loan if the situation comes up later this year.

Another briefing on the County’s cash flow will be scheduled next week.