Frederick County Looks for Long-Term Solutions to Budget Deficit – Reduces Staff, Considers Private Contractors

Frederick County will be making cuts in services and staff in their fiscal year 2012 budget, according to the Board of County Commissioners President, Blaine Young. In an interview with the Frederick News-Post, Young and Budget Officer Mike Gastley stated that the structural deficit in Frederick County’s long-term budget exists because service costs exceed projected revenue by about $19 million each year.

Although gaps in previous budgets have been closed by one-time fund balances, the current board wants to look for long-term solutions for long-term problems.

“We didn’t want to do any robbing Peter to pay Paul,” Young said. “We need to get this under control.”

Gastley said the projected deficits come from several situations, including a decline in property values — nursing home subsidies, and escalating employee and retiree benefit costs. The fire/rescue fund, which is independent of the general fund, also faces multimillion-dollar deficits over the next few years, even though this board restored $4.5 million that had been taken out previously.

On April 5, the commissioners will have a public hearing on the $448 million draft general fund budget for fiscal 2012, but they will not know until the General Assembly adjourns April 11 whether the state will make any decisions that increase county expenses.

The Frederick County commissioners reduced the budget by $5.3 million by laying off 106 employees and by cutting or downgradeding 175 positions. Another $2.3 million was removed from the budget when Frederick County turned over the Head Start program to a private contractor.

Young said that possible shifts from the state include about $4.3 million or more in costs to the county to pay a share of teacher pensions, run a state tax assessment office and hold a special election. If these shifts were to take place, Young said an additional 48 positions may be eliminated or that furloughs or salary reductions will need to be considered. If furloughs or reductions take place, Young is worried that the value of services will begin to be impacted. Frederick County is also considering privatizing some public services to reduce the cost of benefits and is reviewing a proposal for a private contractor to study this option. To read the full article, click here.

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