$500 Million Budget Deficit – and Climbing

County Exec Leggett had been warning us that the county faces a budget deficit of $250 million for the upcoming fiscal year.  Now it appears that was a serious lowball estimate.  Now the County Finance Director is telling us that the deficit will be “at least double” that estimate;  in the neighborhood of at least $450- $500 million– and that’s only if we bank on state aid continuing at its current levels (highly unlikely).  That deficit represents about 13% of the overall county budget.

The question is, what will be done about it?  Leggett and council members have been saying that taxes are out of the question.  Unlike the federal government, the county doesn’t have the authority to borrow money to make up the deficit.

Which leaves spending cuts – and those seem increasingly unlikely.   Leggett floated the idea of a $49 million cut from this year’s budget; that’s a tiny slice of the overall problem.  He had asked for small cuts from a number of departments to reach that insignificant total.  Yet even that small chunk of the needed spending cuts has proven impossible.  The county council today rejected that package of cuts, offering up a cut of about $33 million.

If the council can’t find the political will to get less than $50 million in spending cuts, how in the world are we going to close a $500 million spending gap?  I shudder to think.

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