Every year when a Guilford County manager bangs out a budget proposal to present to the Board of Commissioners, it’s a daunting job.
The new budget maps out the county’s spending for an entire year based on revenue that is essentially well-educated guesses. And when you toss into the equation the fact that the future of the world, national and local economy is completely unknowable – well, it makes accurate revenue projections virtually impossible.
For that reason, Guilford County Manager Marty Lawing said there could be some major adjustments to the fiscal 2020-2021 budget even after it’s adopted.
On Thursday, May 21 Lawing presented his proposed budget to the Guilford County Board of Commissioners for the board to adjust and adopt. However, he said after the meeting that, much more than most years, the budget, which covers from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021, will be a work in progress. The manager said the proposed budget was able to fund the most important county services, but it may have to be revisited if the economic blow in the coming fiscal year is worse than county staff is anticipating.
“We’ll have to monitor things, and if the revenue comes in worse than we’re projecting, then we’ll have to make some decisions to cut further during the year,” he said. “If it comes in better, then we might have to make some decisions to add some things back that we didn’t put in.”
Lawing said he has been reviewing the revenue projections made in proposed budgets in other cities and counties. Most seem to be more optimistic than Guilford County’s projections.
“They’re not projecting quite as big of a drop in sales tax, but the economy is different in every community,” Lawing said. “I don’t know what their logic was but we will just continue to analyze the situation and see.”
He said stores have been closed but one important question pertaining to Guilford County’s sales tax revenue is whether people basically stopped spending all together or shifted to online purchases.
Lawing said another question is this: Many people are out of work but how many of them will use credit cards to make purchases in the meantime.
Another important revenue question regarding the fiscal 2020-2021 budget, he said, is how great of a “pent up demand” there is for shoppers now that stores are opening back up.