Wednesday, February 18, 2009

County Commission Makes Budget Cuts, Other Feb. 17 Actions

The Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners met in the Charlotte-
Mecklenburg Government Center on Tuesday,
February 17, 2009. The meeting is scheduled for re-telecast at various
times on the Government Channel (Time-Warner
Cable Channel 16) and GOV-TV (digital cable channel 232). The meeting
can also be viewed online at

County Manager Harry Jones gave the board an update on how the current
economic situation is
impacting the County's operating budget for both the current and
upcoming fiscal year.
To address a funding gap, the County Manager has directed the
following spending reduction
 Immediate County hiring freeze
 15% reduction in non-salary accounts ($21M)
 Requested reductions in County funding from its partners CMS, CPCC,
Library, MEDIC
and Carolinas Healthcare System ($9M)
The County Manager will review the proposed reductions later this week
and anticipates
implementing most of these reductions immediately. Those reductions
involving policy decisions
or that significantly alter the County's course of operations will be
brought to the Board for
additional input.

The County Manager reported a $70 million preliminary gap between
current year funding and
projected revenues for FY2010. To address this gap, which is likely to
increase as budget
estimates are refined, the County Manager has taken the following steps:
 County departments, Library, MEDIC and other agencies will identify
reductions of 20%
from the current year
 Request to CMS, CPCC and WTVI to share the burden of eliminating
the gap by
considering a 10% reduction from current year's funding.
County Manager Harry Jones reported that if County departments had to
assume the full burden
of eliminating the $70 million gap, it would require the County to
eliminate 800 to 1,000 jobs
and layoff approximately 500 employees. Manager Jones indicated his
intention to retain jobs
and people when possible, but that many County employees would
potentially be put out of work
if the County's key business partners, especially Charlotte-
Mecklenburg Schools, do not share
the responsibility for eliminating this funding gap.

The Board decided to conduct a review of $1.3 billion in authorized
but unissued capital projects
on March 11 and April 28. This review will include a report on the
debt capacity available under

The Board adopted a policy for the audio recording of its closed
session meetings. The recordings
will be available to the public as soon as the Board approves minutes
of the meeting. The
recordings will be retained for two years after they become public
unless the Board directs that
they be retained longer.

The Board held a public hearing and approved a street lighting
assessment for 14
subdivisions. Homeowners in these subdivisions went through a petition
that qualified the subdivisions for funding in the form of a loan for
the installation
and operation of street lights. Homeowners will be assessed for these
costs until the
subdivisions are incorporated into the City limits as a result of

The Board recognized the Harding University High School Band, which
performed during the Presidential Inaugural Parade last month in
Washington, DC.

The Board received an update on the financial condition of
the U.S. Whitewater Center, which was built and operated by
a private company on County-owned park land.
As part of its agreement with the Whitewater Center,
Mecklenburg County agreed to pay a maximum annual
service fee of $1 million for seven years, unless the Center
generates revenue in excess of its operating and debt costs. For the
fiscal year ending October 31,
2008, the reported revenues did not exceed operating expenses plus
debt service so Mecklenburg
County is obligated for the entire $1 million service fee, which is
already approved in this fiscal
year's operating budget.
This is the second full year that Center has been in operation. It has
not been able to generate
sufficient income to make the required principal payments on its
outstanding debt of $38 million.

As part of its consent agenda, the Board amended the Department of
Social Services budget by
adding $1 million in US Department of Energy funds. The additional
funding will assist
Mecklenburg residents with heating and cooling needs through the end
of FY2009. Crisis
Assistance Ministries will continue to administer these funds to those
eligible. This brings the
FY2009 total of these Crisis Intervention Program funds to $4.2
million, compared with $2.6
million last year.

The next meeting of the Board of County Commissioners is scheduled for
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
at 6 p.m. at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center, 600 East
Fourth Street, Charlotte. The
agenda will be available at on Friday,
February 27, 2009.