Durham County, City braces for shortfall

February 6, 2009 2:42:00 PM PST
Bull City leaders say they can't rule out the possibility of a $40 million budget shortfall in the next fiscal year. Meanwhile, Durham County is asking its staff to come up with deep cuts to save jobs and county services.

The shortfall is projected to fall between $25 and $40 million.

"If sales tax really plummeted or other permits and fees or everything just came to a halt, we could have a $40 million dollar gap, but we think realistically it's more that 25 to 28 million-dollar number," Durham City Manager Tom Bonfield said.

City leaders say they're trying to prepare for what will likely be years of financial struggle. That could mean significant change for city workers just to make ends meet.

"We may have employees in positions that the jobs are going to go away, but if we can have positions to move them into, we can avoid the technically layoffs or anybody losing their jobs," Bonfield said.

The bottom line is there will be fewer jobs in the city's next fiscal budget.

Durham County leaders are facing the same challenge.

"We're going to be looking for every way we can to squeeze as much out of every dollar we spend," Durham County Manager Mike Ruffin said.

Ruffin is asking every department to come up with ways to trim their spending by ten percent should it come to that.

"We've heard things from cutting county benefits," Ruffin said. "Be willing to reduce to produce the level of benefits we provide to save jobs. We've heard the suggestion of furloughs to avoid layoffs."

Those are good ideas that could help the county offset an anticipated $16.2 million shortfall year.

"This going to be a very different economy coming out of this recession," Ruffin said. "We can expect this to be an 18-24 month storm that we'll have to navigate our way through."


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