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Posted Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Pittsboro, NC - During our county commission planning retreat earlier this month we discussed different strategies to reduce spending. We all agreed that an across the board spending cut was not the best approach. It's important that while we are working on spending reductions we simultaneously work to prioritize our spending. The result will be an overall reduction in spending but some services may receive an increase in overall allocation from the county.
Our discussion identified four major classes of services; Priority, Mandated but not priority, other services, Non-core/non-mandated. All departments will be asked to develop a prioritized reduction list, including those not required to reduce. Departments providing non-mandated, non-core services will list those services and prioritize them for possible reduction or elimination. For those items in the Priority category we will strive to maintain level funding from last years budget.
Department heads will be asked to propose 2% reduction and a 4% reduction for mandated but non priority services. "Other services" will be looked at for reductions of 3% to 5%. Finally, non-core, non-mandated services will be reviewed with an eye toward reducing by more than 5%. Reductions in this final category will more than likely result in some services or programs being discontinued altogether.
I believe this approach combined with the $600,000 we've already eliminated from the budget will get very close my target of 5% reduction in expenditures from general revenue funds. If it does not, that is Ok. I've said all along that the 5% is a target and not a hard line in the sand. The real goal is to reduce where we can and to prioritize overall spending.
The services we've identified as priority with level funding are; public schools and public safety. In the case of public schools the definition of "level funding" may need some modification. We will use the amount from last year's budget as a starting point but maintain flexibility to consider per pupil spending. In other words, do we maintain the same dollar amount from last year's budget or do we maintain the same per pupil spending amount? If we maintain the per pupil level, the total dollar amount allocated to public schools would actually increase. Of course, any increase here would likely necessitate a larger reduction somewhere else. We'll work with the school board and the budget experts in the county managers office to determine the correct approach. In the case of Public safety (police, fire, etc.) our goal is to maintain a level funding from last year.
Brian Bock is chairman of the Chatham County Commissioners.
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