County supervisors are looking at imposing a hiring freeze and suspending a popular land conservation program to close this year’s county budget shortfall.
Over the longer term, the county may look to improve its financial situation by raising its sales tax, closing its public health nursing program or privatizing the Maplewood Manor county infirmary.
Those were among options outlined Tuesday at a special meeting of the county Law and Finance Committee, as county officials grapple with how to close a projected $9 million budget gap. The county is in a precarious financial situation because of state aid cuts and continuing multimillion-dollar losses at the county infirmary, the county administration warned in an analysis last month that led to the current discussions.
The infirmary will lose about $7 million this year, a situation county officials blame on unrealistically low Medicaid reimbursements for its low-income patients. County Chairman Frank Thompson, R-Milton, said forcefully that he would oppose selling Maplewood Manor, but all the other options appear open to serious consideration.
The committee reviewed its options for an hour with County Administrator Spencer Hellwig, with the goal of making some decisions at another meeting next Wednesday. Hellwig said it would take a year or more to take some of the major actions, while $3.7 million could be saved immediately through a hiring freeze and other moves.
Hellwig said suspending the purchase of development rights program would save $260,000 this year. Another $2.5 million could be saved immediately by closing out three inactive capital construction funds.