Supervisor Tommy Sinclair said Wednesday the US Census Bureau reports Union County’s population declined from 29,881 in 2000 to 28,961 in 2010, a decline of more than 3 percent or 920 people. Sinclair said the loss means a decrease in state funding — which is based on population — for the county. He said the county’s share of state funding is projected to fall from $1,241,950 to $937,756, a loss of just over $3oo,000.
That’s the bad news.
Sinclair, however, pointed out it could have been worse because in 2009 it was projected the county would see a population decline of more than 8 percent and a loss of approximately $350,000 in state funding. Nevertheless, the county must make up the $300,000 loss — the equivalent of five mills — it will experience and, usually, its only options would be to raise taxes, cut spending or use its general fund reserves.
Fiscal 2011-2012, however, will bring an increase in the tipping fee the county receives from the Republic Landfill in Cross Keys. Sinclair said the revenue from the landfill is projected increase by $150,000 in the new fiscal year or roughly half of the loss in state funding.
Also, this year the county had to allocate $50,000 in matching funds for improvements to the South Hills complex. Sinclair said the county will not have this expense in fiscal 2011-2012 and can apply the savings to help balance the budget.
In addition, Sinclair said he has spoken with Sheriff David Taylor about reducing vehicle replacements for the coming year. This could mean another $50,000 in savings.
“We now have to find just $50,000 to break even,” Sinclair said.
That’s the good news.
While the county may be able to cut back on replacing patrol vehicles, it has no control over the price of gasoline. Sinclair said the price has increased from an average of $2.25 a gallon to $3.25, an increase of approximately 30 percent. He said this increase — and any subsequent ones — will have to be factored in to the new budget.
The county will also have to deal with a projected 5-7 percent increase in the cost of Blue Cross, Blue Shield coverage for county employees. There will also likely be an increase in retirement costs which will also have to be included in the new budget.
That’s bad news.
The county, however, has an additional $220,000 to begin the fiscal year that could help it balance the budget without raising taxes, making cuts or taking from its reserve funds.
Sinclair said the county got back $100,000 it filed for from the bond insurance company for the funds former Clerk of Court Brad Morris is accused of taking. The county also saved $100,000 by paying off the bond for the DSS building early and got $20,000 from the recent sale of old vehicles and a boat at auction.
That’s the good news that enabled Sinclair to state his conviction the county will be able to balance its budget without a tax increase while pushing forward on its technological upgrade of county services.
“Our expectation is to fund all this without a tax increase,” Sinclair said. “I believe we can balance the budget and do the digital upgrade of our records without a tax increase.”