County departments have submitted draft reduction scenarios and, in combination with current efforts, have been able to realize approximately $4 million is cost savings
VANCOUVER – Clark County officials have been monitoring revenues and expenditures due to the economic impact of COVID-19 and developing initial assumptions on potential revenue loss.
The county is anticipating current year revenue losses of $5 to $13 million. In order to prepare for the revenue shortfall, the county is implementing a phased-reduction approach to balance the 2020 budget.
The initial phase included implementing strategic initiatives at the onset of the COVID-19 response, including:
- Established a hiring freeze
- Eliminated non-essential spending
- Eliminated overtime when possible
- Put some General Fund projects on hold
County departments have submitted draft reduction scenarios and, in combination with current efforts, have been able to realize approximately $4 million is cost savings. These savings are primarily attributed to personnel vacancy savings and delaying projects.
County departments continue to review their General Fund budgets, assessing service levels and additional potential cost savings measures. Departments will be submitting reduction scenarios to include a 2 percent, 3 percent and 5 percent reduction that may be realized in June, July and August. The county’s finance team — which consists of the interim county manager, the finance director, the deputy treasurer and the budget director — will continue to monitor expenditures and actual revenues received and will adjust the projections as needed on a weekly basis.
“While there are many challenges during this unprecedented time, the county is reviewing opportunities in which we can continue to provide necessary services to Clark County residents,” said Interim County Manager Kathleen Otto.
As with many other local jurisdictions, Clark County will receive funding through the federal government’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The anticipated amount is $26.8 million. The Auditor’s Office is currently reviewing county expenses to ensure all Department of Treasury guidelines are met.
“What we do know is that funding from the CARES Act cannot be used for revenue losses,” said Otto.
County Chair Eileen Quiring expressed confidence that the county’s finance team’s response was appropriate based on its initial assumptions.
“I really think our finance team and our Interim County Manager Kathleen Otto is doing a spectacular job forecasting,’’ Quiring said. “Kathleen is working very hard to find efficiencies and the departments are definitely cooperating. We’re looking at everything in order to try to save funds.’’
“I know we have to think about the county and its revenue and financial problems, but I really feel for the people of Clark County, the small business owners and others who were working and now are out of a job because of this pandemic,’’ Quiring said. “At this point they must be feeling pretty desperate. We at the county are doing everything we can to tighten our belt. We’re getting cooperation from all of our departments.’’
Councilor Gary Medvigy also responded to a request for a response to the county’s budget adjustments from Clark County Today, which was also sent to councilors Julie Olson, John Blom and Temple Lentz.
“The budget is just one casualty of it,’’ said Medvigy, referring to the impact of COVID-19 stay-at-home orders. “I’m confident as much as we can be in our budget projections. I think it’s well within our capacity. The estimates show that we can move through it pretty safely with the numbers we are seeing.’’
Medvigy praised Clark County residents for paying their property taxes on time and also pleaded with them to continue to shop locally.
“I want to emphasize, please buy locally,’’ he said. “We don’t have income tax but we do have a sales tax. We depend on sales tax. That’s a constant pressure we have. Everyone can do their bit by shopping locally.
“I also want to thank our taxpayers,’’ he said. “They are paying their property taxes on time in great numbers. That’s also a positive aspect of what numbers we’re looking at. We know a lot of people are struggling out there, but a good number of people are stepping up and paying their taxes on time and in full measure. We’re on target. We’re almost in a better place than I thought we would be right now.’’