Local Politics

Wake leaders finding room for budget cuts

Posted December 8, 2008 1:38 p.m. EST
Updated December 8, 2008 8:57 p.m. EST

— Wake County commissioners heard proposals from department heads Monday about budget cuts – 4 percent this year, maybe 10 percent next year – to make up for a shortfall that could approach $30 million in a worst-case scenario.

In some proposals, the Wake County Sheriff's Office could reduce training, Emergency Medical Services would  not buy some new equipment, and libraries would eliminate programs for adults and teenagers.

"Some of the cuts shouldn't be that difficult to find. But definitely, there is the potential for some cuts that people will notice," Commissioner Tony Hurley said.

County departments have identified one-time savings of nearly $11 million, including a hiring freeze and halt to travel by employees and also from supplies and materials, contractual services and training. They apply only to this fiscal year, which ends next June 30.

Officials identified some services that could be impacted by budget cuts:

  • a minor reduction to food-stamp services
  • reductions to mental- and public-health pharmaceuticals and to in-home aide service to adults
  • less overtime for field and processing agents with the City/County Bureau of Identification
  • reduced janitorial services, including power-washing buildings and landscaping
  • a delay in finding leased space for the Board of Elections

Sheriff's office and EMS officials said any more budget cuts would impact public-safety services and response times.

County leaders were preparing to lose $18.6 million in the coming months as the slowing economy and deflated housing market eat into sales-tax and deed-stamp revenue. In a worst-case scenario, those losses increase to $28.8 million.

"We don't know where the bottom is in terms of this recession," Commissioner Stan Nor walk said.

Alongside the department cuts, county leaders have identified $13.1 million more in potential savings – from the public school system, Wake Technical Community College and even a delay in renting space at Dorthea Dix Hospital.

Those bring savings up to $24.6 million for this year. And raising taxes to meet the shortfall isn't on the table at this time.

"We ought to be able to manage our way through this thing and deal with things in a very responsible manner," County Manager David Cooke said.

The county Budget Office is reviewing the proposals, and top county officials will make recommendations to commissioners in January. They will get reports on second-quarter revenues at the same time.

Departments will also be challenged to find permanent reductions for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.