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Officials expecting a budget shortfall

Although he doesn't have a crystal ball to gaze into the future, Don Norton is one of the persons responsible for letting the McDuffie County Board of Commissioners know what the future looks like from a financial standpoint.

Looking down the road several months from now, the picture isn't a rosy one.

In fact, it's just the opposite.

Mr. Norton, who serves as county manager, advised commissioners during a work session last week that there could be a major shortfall by year's end. The projected amount could be around $600,000.

The county manager explained that Pam Workman, the county's assistant finance director and Darlow Maxwell, now the former county finance director, had worked on the cash-flow problem prior to Mr. Maxwell leaving the position.

Mr. Norton said the county only has a small amount in reserve today as opposed to $2 million last year. He explained that early projections indicate that the county will begin running in negative numbers by June.

As has been the case in past years, commissioners could take out a tax anticipation note or open a line of credit at a local bank.

Mr. Norton suggested that commissioners think about the line of credit since interests would only be paid on what is actually used from the account -- not the total amount borrowed.

There is only one catch to borrowing. The county would then start a new year behind.

Budget cuts have become a way of life in county government. Such will continue until the economy takes an upward trend.

Aside from that sizable shortfall, there also could be the possibility of furloughs or layoffs of county employees before the end of the year.

"We're looking at things very closely, financially speaking," Mr. Norton told The McDuffie Mirror during a recent interview. "We're certainly hoping it's not going to get any worse. But it certainly could."

The main reason for the shortfall is that revenue isn't coming in like projected.

"Our sales tax is way down from what was projected," Mr. Norton said. "We're hoping it will be far less than what it's looking like right now, because that's a pretty hefty amount of money," Mr. Norton said.

The county manager said furloughs or layoffs of employees would be the last option.

"We don't want to have to cut jobs in anyway, but that's sure a possibility at this point," he added.

One furlough day for all county employees could save the county as much as $20,000, Mr. Norton pointed out.

Web posted on Thursday, April 15, 2010

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