Budget Update, June 2009

You could call the County’s FY2010 budget a lemonade budget—if ever we made lemonade out of lemons, it was this year. In a year that saw the steepest drop in property values since the County began keeping records, the FY2010 property tax rate of $1.04 per $100 of assessed value will still result in a lower tax bill for most Lee District residents. It is also a year where bipartisanship prevailed with a 10-0 vote to adopt the budget.

I would have liked to see the property tax rate be even lower and I will be working with my Board colleagues to find ways to diversify revenue so that the burden does not continue to fall most heavily on property owners. Currently, almost 64 percent of the County’s General Fund comes from homeowners. That’s way too high and given the volatility of the real estate market, that’s not sound budgeting.

I went into our budget deliberations believing that there are some government responsibilities that are not negotiable and I am pleased that my positions prevailed. Critical police and fire public safety cuts, including regional shopping center officers, middle school police resource officers, and the sexual predator enforcement and detection team, among others have been restored. Unacceptable response times for medical emergencies were avoided with the restoration of EMS services, and many vital human services that are especially necessary during tough economic times were spared.

It was very important to me that we not lose the progress we’re making keeping our neighborhoods healthy, so I insisted that the proposed cuts to zoning enforcement, property maintenance, and the strike team be restored. I also successfully pushed for funding to be restored to our senior centers and services.

While we held the transfer to the school system at the same level as FY2009, at 53.8 percent of the County’s budget, it’s our biggest priority. We were also able to restore core functions of the schools including police resource officers, clinic room aids, and Head Start. We were also able to almost fully fund transit—both Connector bus services and Metro.

When we began our budget process, we were looking at a projected $650 million shortfall to maintain our FY2009 level of services. We closed the shortfall through a number of means. We froze County employee salaries, cut 306 positions, and held budgets for most County agencies at or below the FY2009 level. We cut half the Penny for Affordable Housing, reduced overtime funding, and cut funds budgeted for fuel and take home cars. And—where we could, we raised fees in such areas as commercial parking violations and construction permits.

You can find more detailed information on the County’s website.

It’s obvious that our citizens have high expectations for their local government, the services it provides, and the quality of those services. Now that the FY2010 budget has been adopted, I have begun the hard work of FY2011. I would value your observations and opinions as we move forward.



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