Study Shows Counties “Settling Into the New Normal of Revenue, Staffing and Service”

The National Association of Counties (NACo) recently released a study titled, “Coping with the New Normal: An Economic Status Survey of Counties.” This is the seventh survey in a series to capture how counties have been dealing with challenging fiscal situations over the past few years.  From the NACo press release:

The new survey shows counties are continuing to make difficult budget decisions and are still scaling back or deferring certain activities to help them through their current fiscal year.

Although most financial analysts believe that the recession ended more than a year ago, local economies affecting county governments continue to struggle toward recovery. As this economic slowdown drags on, counties have made increasingly more severe – or long term in nature – budget adjustments to try to adopt balanced budgets and still maintain mandated service deliveries.

“As a result of the slow economic recovery, counties appear to be settling into the ‘new normal’ of revenue, staffing and service delivery levels,” said NACo Executive Director Larry E. Naake.

Key study findings include:

  • Only 35 percent of responding counties (69 counties) report that they adopted balanced budgets this fiscal year with no anticipated shortfalls.
  • More than half of responding counties (51 percent or 107 counties) report that declining revenues from the state and federal government was the number one contributor to their shortfalls.
  • Two thirds of responding counties (66 percent or 143 counties) report employing fewer county employees this fiscal year as compared to the number of county employees in FY2010.

The survey also summarizes which services have experienced budget cuts and staffing adjustments:

  • Planning, Zoning, Engineering, Surveyors, Code Enforcement (46 percent reported cuts);
  • Roads, Highways, Transportation (45 percent reported cuts);
  • Administration, Budget, HR (42 percent reported cuts);
  • Sheriff, Police & Fire & Rescue (35 percent reported cuts);
  • Human Services, Children, Seniors, Veterans (33 percent reported cuts);
  • Public Works, Building & Grounds, Water, Sewer, Waste Management (31 percent reported cuts);
  • Health (26 percent reported cuts); Libraries (26 percent reported cuts), and Jails and Corrections (25 percent reported cuts).

Press coverage of the survey can be found in the links below.

Thompson-Reuters
Bloomberg-Business Week

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