County faces growing deficit Gains in revenue expected to fall short of expenses

December 18, 1992|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Staff Writer

The county will have to sharply reduce its budget to avoid a looming fiscal crisis, a county financial analysis warns.

The analysis, prepared by the county budget office and released yesterday, predicts the widening gap between the county's revenue and its expenses could reach $100 million by 1998.

The gloomy fiscal news will accelerate County Executive Robert R. Neall's plans to reduce the size of government by trimming his work force and privatizing services now provided by the county, his budget officer said.

"We have to step back and evaluate all we're providing in government to get our expenditures down to the level of revenues," said Steven E. Welkos, the budget officer.

Mr. Neall is asking department heads to submit two budget proposals for the next fiscal year -- one that would cut their current allocations by 10 percent and another that would cut them by 3 percent.

Under the twin constraints of a tax cap and the loss of state aid, the county's revenue is expected to grow by only 4.5 percent a year over the next five years. But its annual expenses should grow by 7.5 percent if spending levels remain the same, the budget analysis predicted.

The gap next year could be $20 million, they said, increasing to $100 million over the next six years.

The tax cap, approved overwhelmingly last November, limits the increases in the county's revenue from property taxes to 4.5 percent or less.

One cut in state aid, requiring local governments to pay Social Security taxes for teachers, librarians and community college employees, could cost the county $15 million more each year. And a weak economy has cut into income and sales tax receipts.

The executive has made no firm decisions yet as to what to cut, "but just about everything is on the table," Mr. Welkos said.

County officials are trying to decide which services are essential and which can be reduced or eliminated, he said.

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