Bracing for deep cuts in state aid, Washington County has started a hiring freeze, nixed "noncritical out-of-state travel" and is reviewing expenses in every department, Administrator Jim Schug told the County Board Tuesday.
The cut of $1.45 million in state aid to Washington County this year is only the beginning of reductions that will extend into 2010, Schug said.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty has targeted aid to counties and cities as part of his cost-control efforts to rein in a projected $5.2 billion state budget deficit.
Washington County will not freeze jobs in public safety areas such as the jail, Schug told commissioners. But he said that the county is delaying capital purchases, reviewing contracts with outside agencies for possible suspension of services and expecting a list of budget cuts from department managers by Jan. 16.
Meanwhile, more Washington County residents need assistance in community services programs because of they're out of work, county leaders have said.
For 2009, Washington County budgeted for more than $10 million in state aid. Much of that money goes to pay for state-mandated county programs and serves as a hedge against property tax increases.
Schug said it was difficult to prepare a specific plan of action until the Legislature decides how to address the state deficit. To meet this year's cuts in state aid, he said, the county will dip into contingency funds.