Barnstable County Faces Budget Crisis

barnstable county symbolBARNSTABLE – Barnstable County is getting ready to work on its budget for Fiscal Year 2017, which begins on July 1.

But county officials say that they are going through a “budget crisis” because the county is close to a $2 million shortfall.

Capital projects that were proposed had been approved by the county in the past but when it came to funding, they were not put out for bonding.

Some of those projects were approved up to five years ago, but bonding agencies would not bond any projects older than three years.

Now county officials have to find a way to pay for it.

“We have bonded the ones under three years,” said Barnstable County Commissioners Chair Mary Pat Flynn. “It’s just simply paying ourselves back and we have to find a way to do that.”

For a period of nine years up until 2008, the county did not increase its budget assessment from the towns by 2.5 percent as allowed by law, creating less income than they could have.

Flynn said that once the current budget is put together, county officials will take a look back at what happened and why did it happen, in an attempt to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

But the county has to manage the shortfall even though they are not sure how to yet.

“We could maybe not fund certain things, we maybe have programs we have to eliminate,” said Flynn. “The last step that we would take is to lay people off that is the absolute last option.”

The county’s assessment for health insurance for its employees could go up to 50 percent over current estimates for FY 2017, adding more problems for the county.

“That is a huge cost as well as the retirement assessment from the retirement system,” said Flynn. “Those you have to pay, you can’t drag those out.”

Although the county allowed for a 10 percent increase in health insurance, their provider has notified them that it will be closer to 15 percent.

Flynn said that they will fix the issues going forward.

“It may take a while, it may take another year, I don’t know what it might take yet because we’re not there yet,” said Flynn. “We haven’t done the total complete assessment of how we can fix it going forward, but we will fix it.”

Flynn added that the county has to figure out how to resolve the deficit before the budget is presented to the assembly on February 17.

By JUSTIN SAUNDERS, CapeCod.com Newscenter

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