Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Sussex County Press Release
Georgetown, Del., April 28, 2009: Spring is giving Sussex County more than unseasonably warm weather: it’s giving County government some hope for the 2009 financial picture, something that was absent in a bleak, mid-year forecast a few months ago.
County Council, at its Tuesday, April 28, 2009, meeting, received a third-quarter financial report that shows the County’s once-projected $7.7 million year-end deficit has shrunk by more than 50 percent, thanks to cost-saving steps enacted this past January. And that number could drop even further as June 30 nears.
Finance Director Susan M. Webb reported to County Council that the deficit for fiscal 2009 now appears closer to $3.7 million.
Most tax revenue for the year already has been collected, but three months of expenses remain on the fiscal year. Without a radical improvement in the economy and upswing in other revenues, such as the market-driven realty transfer tax, 2009 will end in deficit. This year’s budget called for an approximately $2.5 million shortfall, with reserves filling the gap.
“The long and the short of it is the hole is not getting any deeper. If fact, it’s a much smaller hole than what we were anticipating back in January,” Ms. Webb said. “You have to give everybody credit. We’re where we are today because of the leadership of the County Council,Sussex County financial picture improving, deficit cut in half and the hard work of every department head and the County employees to tighten our belts and save as much as possible, wherever possible.”
County officials attributed the improved financial forecast to a host of cost-saving measures, both large and small, that County Council implemented in January. Those included not filling vacant positions, parking County vehicles, freezing most overtime, re-evaluating grants, devoting staff time to collecting delinquent taxes, giving employees the chance to opt out of health insurance coverage and offering voluntary, unpaid leave.
Additionally, energy and utility conservation, trimming purchases of offices supplies and equipment, and reducing the use of outside vendors for services such as plan reviews, cleaning and landscaping have helped narrow the budget gap.
County Administrator David B. Baker thanked County employees for their many ideas and efforts to save taxpayer dollars in these tough economic times. “The County government and its staff have and continue to respond to the changes in our economy,” Mr. Baker said.
County Council President Vance C. Phillips said some of the belt-tightening may have been difficult at first, but the net gains have produced a leaner, more efficient operation, and that means a savings to the County’s taxpayers.
“This is certainly good news, but we have a long row to hoe. Our financial ills are far from solved,” Council President Phillips said. “We have to continue work on closing this shortfall. And looking ahead, we must do everything within our power to see to it that in the upcoming 2010 budget year Sussex County is not spending beyond its means.”