- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Charles County is facing a $6 million fiscal 2014 deficit due to a projected income tax shortfall and winter storm costs triple what was anticipated, budget officials told the county commissioners Tuesday.
The county’s income tax revenue in the fourth quarter of 2013 was down $1.4 million, or 5.6 percent, from the previous year, according to data provided by the comptroller of Maryland. However, county Fiscal and Administrative Services Director Dave Eicholtz noted that Charles was one of 19 jurisdictions, including Baltimore, that saw such a decline, while only five counties saw revenues increase. In total, the state’s income tax revenue in the fourth quarter of 2013 fell $12.5 million, or 1.1 percent, from 2012, according to the data.
The county’s income tax revenue in the fourth quarter of 2012 went up 9.8 percent from 2011, while the state’s increased 10.7 percent, the data shows.
Meanwhile, frequent snowstorms this winter have cost the county an estimated $2.4 million, more than triple the $782,100 that was budgeted for storm events, and leave the fund at a $1.6 million deficit.
Eicholtz presented the commissioners three options, recommending that they close the gap by exhausting the $924,700 remaining in the storm reserve fund, pay for the remaining $693,200 in storm costs with unassigned fund balance, and make up the difference with more than $4.5 million in budget cuts. The option would leave about $2.1 million in the county’s unreserved fund balance, or its “rainy day” fund.
“In the past this was called the rainy day fund, so now I guess it’s the snowy day fund?” Commissioner Ken Robinson (D) joked.
“Aptly put,” Eicholtz said.
The other two options also involved zeroing the storm reserve fund. One would spend the entire $2.84 million in unassigned fund balance and require only $2.2 million in cuts, while the other would use no fund balance and cut $5 million from the budget.
Eicholtz said any budget trimming would be spread out evenly across county departments, noting that the Charles County Board of Education and Charles County Sheriff’s Office, as the county’s two largest budget items, would thus see the largest cuts.
“If you’re going to hear something, I’m going to guess you’re going to hear something from those two,” Eicholtz said.
The commissioners voted to proceed with the recommended option, though with the understanding that they can amend their decision in the future.