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Gradual clearing today, and a bit cooler as well. High pressure in the wake of the front will allow us to see more sunshine for today. Highs are only in the lower 60's. A slight warmup for Thanksgiving, as we start Thursday morning off in the mid 40's ...
Orange County makes progress reducing projected budget deficit
ORANGE COUNTY - by Lauren Huet
An Orange County commissioner says the county is making progress facing a challenge many families deal with as well-- cutting expenses and ending the year without a deficit.
When Orange County commissioners approved a 45.3 million dollar budget in October, 2013, they knew they would have to cut expenses to avoid a potential deficit. Without any cuts, the county might face a shortfall of 3.1 million dollars.
"We calculate on what we think we're going to spend throughout the course of the year, and we know what revenue we have coming in, so that's kind of where we said, 'look we're going to have a shortfall if we don't make adjustments in here somewhere,'" said Commissioner Jody Crump.
Crump says they immediately began making adjustments.
"We've gone from self-funded insurance to state-funded insurance, and that's much better for us right now. That could save us up to 1.2 million dollars in expenditures," said Crump.
The commissioners also passed a policy requiring the county to wait six weeks before hiring a new employee. He says when county employees leave, the county must continue to pay out benefits the employee has accrued for about a month.
"So, we had implemented that six week hiring delay which helps defer some of that cost," said Crump. "Instead of me bringing a new employee on, and still having expenditures to the old employee, so I'd be double paying that [position], we started a six week delay. That helps."
Another way the county is trying to save dollars has to do with the new Orange County Expo Center on FM 1442. It houses four county departments and also serves as the county's emergency center. The county is considering whether to build a storage shed behind the center. It would house generators and other equipment that could be used in an emergency or in everyday county business. However, Crump says the first round of bids came in high. The lowest was a quarter of a million dollars.
"We had a 75 thousand dollar grant out there that we were looking at using, and we'd use that towards the cost of that building, to pay for part of that building," said Crump. "But the numbers we got back were just so high. I wasn't a big fan of going out and doing it right then based on that cost."
A second round of bids should be presented to Commissioners Court within a month. Crump still expects the county to have a budget shortfall at the end of September, when the fiscal year is over, but he says with the cost cutting it will be less than the projected 3.1 million dollar shortfall.