The revenue loss to the county’s 2019-20 fiscal budget will be between $11 million-$14 million, County Auditor Ed Sturdivant said at the special Commissioners Court meeting April 21.
Sturdivant noted the loss is not coming from property tax revenue. The county is experiencing a decline in fines and fees from the clerk’s office, tax office and sheriff's office. Its revenue from interest is also down. Other intergovernmental and miscellaneous revenue has also decreased.
"All of that gathered together is resulting in an $11 million-$14 million revenue reduction," Sturdivant said.
In an interview, he explained the county courts at law are temporarily closed through May 8—with some exceptions—and so are not collecting court fines and fees, while the clerk’s office is not collecting vital statistics, such as birth certifications and pet licenses. Interest rates have also been low since the beginning of the calendar year.
But one of the biggest revenue losses is coming from the vehicle sales tax commission, he said. The county collects a sales tax on vehicle sales, but shoppers are not spending as much during the coronavirus pandemic.
He estimates the county will collect a total of $4 million annually from vehicle sales this fiscal year. Usually, the vehicle sales tax commission totals about $6 million annually.
At the April 21 meeting, Sturdivant asked for guidance from the commissioners court on what items to cut in the budget.
Upon the recommendation from Precinct 3 Commissioner Andy Meyers, the court unanimously approved Meyers and Precinct 2 Commissioner Grady Prestage to provide this guidance to the auditor and budget offices.
Sturdivant will work with the commissioners and has already come up with a few ideas on how to cut costs, he said in the interview.
For example, the county could save between $4 million-$4.5 million by freezing vacant positions through the end of the fiscal year, Sturdivant said.
Another idea—with Commissioners Court approval—is to ask each county department to look at its budget and self-identify 20% to cut. These departments could lower their travel expenses and fuel costs as well as postpone purchasing new furniture, he said.