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Counties faced with severe long-term budget adjustments

The National Association of Counties has released data from a nationwide survey that indicates that counties across the U.S. have made long term budget adjustments to “try to adopt balanced budgets and still maintain mandated service deliveries.”

A press release (.pdf) issued by the Association of Counties states that the survey is the seventh “in a series of twice yearly efforts by NACo to capture information about counties as they struggle with the current fiscal situation.” National Association of Counties ”affiliate organizations are aligned with departments within the county government structure. Members of the affiliates are county staff that perform a specific job within a county.”

According to the survey (.pdf) copies of the questions were sent to 2,000 counties; 233 responded, representing 38 states. Sixteen Florida counties answered.

The survey adds that “counties of all budget sizes responded providing a representative distribution of counties in the nation by population. Four percent of responding counties had budgets of $1 billion or more and 21% had budgets of $9 million or less.”

Findings include:

  • Only 35 percent of responding counties report that they adopted balanced budgets this fiscal year with no anticipated shortfalls.
  • Once again, counties report that declining revenues from the state and federal government was the No. 1 contributor to their shortfalls.
  • Fifty-three percent of responding counties report that they have state imposed caps on millage rates and 12 percent report that they have county-imposed caps.
  • Counties are using rainy day funds, imposing hiring freezes, freezing pay, delaying purchases and repairs and capital investments, and adjusting personnel to address their current shortfalls.
  • Two thirds of the counties surveyed have fewer county staff than they did in 2010.
  • Counties report that their bond ratings have changed because of the adjustments that they have made to balance their budgets
  • Forty-nine percent of responding counties report that cities have contracted with them to perform some services.

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