Thursday, October 16, 2008

We're At The Break Point

The Sun reports on a briefing by county budget director Raymond Wacks, who tells County Council that the county may end up with a shortfall in its current budget.

For the current fiscal year, which ends next June 30, the county is expected to be close to the "break-even point," Wacks said. The county is facing a potential $1.8 million revenue shortfall out of an $850 million locally funded budget, though the final outcome is still uncertain.

Property tax revenues are $10 million higher than expected so far this fiscal year, Wacks said, but real estate and income tax revenues are lower than predicted.

The county has begun to hold open vacant jobs and make other moves to prepare.

"I think this is a scary situation for all of us," Wacks said. "It could get even worse."

Wacks said property assessments may decline in the one-third of the county covering Elkridge and parts of east Columbia. The state will reassess for next fiscal year, but years of previous growth in values should keep property tax revenues growing for a time. Builders are postponing projects, however, he said, and if conditions worsen, so could the revenue picture.

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