Having already asked county departments to cut their 2012 budgets and even cut 10 percent from the remainder of 2011, the Putnam County Council set about last week to overcome a budget shortfall.
The council announ-ced in July that budget requests from departments exceeded the levy from the state by $1,798 million. At that time, they asked county departments to prepare for the worst.
By cutting all budgets to 2011 levels, rolling the 2011 savings into 2012 and using a different revenue source, the council believes it has balanced the 2012 budget.
Council president Darrel Thomas said the biggest piece of the puzzle came in keeping budgets at their 2011 levels, which cut more than $1 million immediately. The economy is simply not allowing for budgets to grow.
"We went into Monday trying to find $750,000 and trying to squeeze blood from a turnip," Thomas said.
Two of the major reasons for the tight budget are a shortfall in County Adjusted Gross Income Tax (CAGIT) funds and an increase in insurance premiums.
CAGIT miscellaneous revenues were down $695,000 from their 2011 level.
"The economy is what hit us there," Thomas said.
Additionally, governments are not immune to the ever-increasing cost of health insurance, as premiums increased by $390,000 for the county.
With health insurance being a big part of the problem, County Commissioner Gene Beck suggested using money from the county's health insurance trust fund, which is controlled by the commissioners.
Pending approval by the commissioners, the council will use $500,000 of the $1.7 million in the fund to pay health insurance county employees.
The savings created by the 10 percent cuts will be rolled into 2012.
"We're hoping the budget cuts we created in July will give us $300,000 at the end of the year," Thomas said.
He added that the county is sitting on some other resources, such as approximately $2 million in the rainy day fund and $530,000 remaining from the sale of the county home and the surrounding acreage. However, officials are choosing to play it safe, with the understanding that revenues won't necessarily increase in the coming years.
"That could be available, but we don't know what the future's going to hold if things get sticky again -- and they will," Thomas said.
He also explained there is a two-year lapse in budgeting figures, so 2012 budgets are based on local conditions in 2010. This means recent signs of growth like the expansion at Crown Equipment and the purchase of the old Oxford plant will not help the county until the 2013 or 2014 budget.
"What's going on will eventually come back and help us, but it's not going to be an immediate kind of thing," Thomas said.
The biggest goal the council had in making any budget decisions was to avoid job losses. This was mostly avoided. The jail will be cutting one position, and the budget for part time help in the microfilm office has been cut in half.
The challenge comes in trying to downsize budgets that have been cut and cut again in recent years. A point is reached when no fat is left to trim.
"In my 10 years (on the council) we've had to do this before," Thomas said. "It's just now the basis for looking is much thinner than in the past."