Hertford Co. enacts spending freeze

Published 8:41 am Tuesday, March 2, 2010

WINTON – The red warning flag came out early.

On Monday, Hertford County Manager Loria Williams shared some bad news with the board of commissioners at their regularly scheduled meeting – the current operating budget is facing a projected $365,000 shortfall with four months still remaining in the fiscal year.

With that grim forecast, Williams said she had no other choice but to recommend a spending freeze on non-essential items.

“I don’t have anywhere else to cut; it’s either put in a spending freeze or I’ll need your approval to dip into our fund balance,” Williams said.

Williams pointed out that, currently, the county’s coffers are taking a hit on sales tax ($86,729 in the red), vehicle tax (-$113,085), interest income (-$100,000) and beer & wine tax (-$65,000).

“I’ve been preaching all along that this year was the most critical one for Hertford County,” Williams said. “There’s not a lot of excess to trim in this year’s budget so there’s not a lot of room to make cuts.”

William emphasized that while the spending freeze instituted in last year’s budget did realize some healthy savings, that is not the case this year.

“A freeze this year only minimizes the shortfall,” she noted.

“If you see this coming then I say let’s start right now,” Commissioner DuPont Davis advised. “As I’ve always said the best time to prepare for war is in a time of peace.”

Davis used his statement to put a motion on the floor to approve Williams’ recommendation for a spending freeze. That motion was approved, but Davis added one final word of warning for Williams, advising her to also keep a close eye on filling county employment vacancies only in cases of where those positions are critical in providing essential services to the citizens.

After the vote was taken, Commissioner Howard Hunter III said today’s (Tuesday) voter referendum in the county (one calling for a local increase of one-fourth of one penny in the state sales tax) would help ease a bit of this projected shortfall.

“I encourage everyone to get out and vote in favor of this,” Hunter said.