As economic crisis grows, Lake County officials propose $9 million in spending cuts

  • Lake County Administrator Gary Gibson

    Lake County Administrator Gary Gibson

 
 
Updated 5/7/2020 1:36 PM

In response to the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Lake County officials have proposed slashing more than $9 million in anticipated spending from the current budget.

Dozens of cuts have been suggested, including eliminating vacant staff positions in several departments, reducing spending on supplies in many departments and reducing travel and training.

 

Officials also proposed trimming gasoline purchases, spending less money on uniforms for the sheriff's office, reducing mileage reimbursements, canceling the digitalization of some records and shaving software purchases, among other reductions.

More cuts certainly will be proposed as the crisis worsens, officials said.

"Staff is continuing to look at potential reductions across the board," County Administrator Gary Gibson said.

The county board's financial and administrative committee tentatively approved the reductions Thursday morning during a meeting held remotely because of the statewide stay-at-home order.

The full board will consider the proposed cuts when it meets next week.

The stay-at-home order is preventing countless businesses from operating normally and is reducing their revenue as a result. That, in turn, is dramatically affecting the revenue governmental agencies will collect from sales tax, gasoline tax, video gambling and many other sources.

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Officials have estimated Lake County's revenue will be $20 million less than the $542 million projection for the 2020 fiscal year because of the growing economic crisis. That's a roughly 3.7% drop.

The fiscal year ends Nov. 30.

The cuts discussed Thursday were suggested voluntarily by county department leaders, said Patrice Sutton, the county's finance director.

Many are vacant staff positions that now will go unfilled. No layoffs were proposed.

Contracts for various services and purchases will be eliminated, too.

Capital projects, such as road repairs or construction ventures, are being spared at the moment. But "hard decisions" will have to be made soon on such projects, Deputy County Administrator Jim Hawkins said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The proposed cuts represent about 1.6% of the $573.2 million in expenses included in the 2020 budget.

Although the cuts would be real, they wouldn't reduce the size of the county's budget on paper. Rather, the money for the various expenditures will be moved to contingency accounts that can be accessed if funds become available, Sutton said.

County board members are set to meet in a virtual committee-of-the-whole session at 8:30 a.m. Friday to review this and other proposals. The full board is set to meet remotely at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Both meetings will be streamed live on the internet at lakecounty.tv and aired on some local cable stations.

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