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Manatee County Commissioners wrestle with future budget issues during work session


County Administrator Ed Hunzeker and Financial Management Director Jim Seuffert laid out a grim potential scenario for the county's budget over the next four years during a commission work session held Tuesday, April 6.

Seuffert used the word "hypothetical" repeatedly, since it is not possible to predict either general economic conditions or the exact amount of tax revenue the county can expect to collect between now and 2014.

Careful use of the county's $30 million stabilization reserve
The county currently has $30 million set aside to help it get through disasters. In the budget scenario Seuffert presented to commissioners, by the end of the 2012-2013 fiscal year there would only be $1 million left in this fund. He talked of using $8 million to help cover the anticipated budget shortfall in 2010 - 2022; $13 million to help cover the anticipated shortfall in 2011 - 2012; $8 million in 2012 - 2013; and for income and expenditures to match once again in 2013 - 2014.

Seuffert and Hunzeker also anticipate cutting expenditures by one dollar for every dollar of reserve fund money they use. For example, their projected 2010 - 2011 budget will be $178 million, which is $8 million less than the 2009 - 2010 (current) budget of $186 million, even though anticipated tax revenue in 2010 - 2011 is only $170 million. Essentially, the reserve fund is being used to cushion the economic blow, not to eliminate it.

Will Manatee County's recession bottom out in 2011 - 2012?
The hypothetical financial future Seuffert laid out assumes that county tax revenues will drop from $186 million in our current fiscal year to $170 million in 2010 - 2011 and to $160 million in 2011 - 2012, after which things will start to get better, with $173 million collected in 2012 - 2013 and $175 worth of revenue in 2013 - 2014.

The county would make $8 million in budget cuts for the 2010 - 2011 budget year, another $5 million in cuts in 2011 - 2012, which would mean a total budget of $173 million for that year, down from the current $186 million. In 2012 - 2013, Seuffert assumes that revenues will increase by $5 million over 2011 - 2012, but that we will still use $8 million from the stabilization reserve fund to prop up that year's $173 million budget.

In 2013 - 2014, this budget scenario shows tax collections totaling $175 million and expenditures of $175 million, which means the county budget in 2013 - 2014 would be $11 million less than it is now, and no reserve fund money would be needed to make that budget work -- which is good to hear since the reserve fund would be down to $1 million at that point.

This is just the start of this year's budget discussion
Hunzeker and Seuffert presented their talk, Future Use of Budget Stabilization Reserves, in a commission work session held in a conference room, not during a full-blown commission meeting in the commission chambers. There will be many more budget presentations and discussions between now and October 1, which is when the county's next fiscal year begins.  



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