Financial District: Counties keep fighting the economy
Brooke Wisdom | December 1, 2009
While America’s biggest counties get most of the media ink, the majority of the country’s counties are mid-size or smaller. The National Association of Counties (NACo) has published the results of a fall survey looking at the continuing impact of the struggling economy on a sample of counties across the country. That sample was primarily made up of these counties.
The survey, “How are Counties Doing? An Economic Status Survey”, published by the research division of NACo’s county services department, found that our economic malaise “is impacting counties of all sizes from several directions.”
More than half the counties surveyed (56 percent) said they started their fiscal years with up to a $10 million projected shortfall. And almost half of the responding counties (47 percent) said that the shortfall increased after the start of the fiscal year according to the report. And 95 percent of counties reporting these additional shortfalls said this new deficit falls in the “up to $10 million” range.
A worrying 82 percent of reporting counties are expecting shortfalls into their next fiscal year.
To make matters gloomier many counties either don’t expect any stimulus money. Among those that do (61 percent) more than a third are still waiting for theirs to arrive. Transportation funding (49 percent) and Community Development Block Grants (50 percent) are the most anticipated funds from ARRA.
A TOUGH FIGHT
Respondents to the NACo survey, which included 13 counties in 34 states, said revenues were creating shortfalls in these areas:
Property taxes – 52%
Reductions in state or federal funding – 50%
Sales taxes – 46%
Counties are responding to the shortfalls by:
Delaying purchases and repairs – 60%
Salary/pay freeze for employees – 59%
Delaying capital investments – 54%
Hiring freeze – 49%
Using rainy day/reserve funds – 44%
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