Beaufort News

County avoids year-end deficit, preliminary numbers show

Beaufort County administrators say a series of cost-cutting measures taken earlier this year, including employee furloughs, probably prevented a budget deficit.

The county's fiscal year for revenues closed Aug. 31, and chief financial officer David Starkey said projections suggest the budget will come in between $500,000 and $750,000 in the black.

However, those figures are preliminary. "It just depends upon how August collections were," Starkey said.

The fiscal picture wasn't always so rosy.

A decline in revenue attributed to the sluggish economy prompted a memo in January from county staff to Beaufort County Council suggesting several options for spending cuts. By mid-April, forecasts suggested the county could end the year as much as $2 million in the hole, which would draw down cash reserves that are important for bond ratings and emergencies.

In response, administrators cut employee overtime and travel expenses. They asked departments to hold off on all but the most necessary purchases. And they placed non-essential employees on a five-day rotating furlough, which alone saved about $500,000, Starkey estimated.

County administrator Gary Kubic said the bottom line shows the cuts were warranted despite criticism from some in the community.

Estimates for this year's revenue are $97.1 million, and for expenses, $96.3 million. That compares with $99.1 million of revenue last year and $101.8 million of expenses.

If projections hold, the county's reserves will grow from $18.2 million last year to $19 million at the end of this fiscal year.

Under the county's accounting rules, the fiscal year for expenses ends June 30, while revenues are counted through Aug. 31.

Follow reporter Kyle Peterson at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufortCo.

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Some county workers face five-day furlough, May 20, 2011

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Possible county budget deficit could mean drawing down reserve funds, officials say, April 26, 2011

Facing a drop in revenues, county officials debate cuts, April 18, 2011

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