Douglas County freezes hiring for some positions

Falling sales-tax revenue amid COVID-19 shutdown causes budget uncertainty

Elliott Wenzler
ewenzler@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 4/20/20

Douglas County has frozen hiring for all non-essential positions as the response to novel coronavirus substantially blocks a significant source of the government's revenue — sales tax. While it's …

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Douglas County freezes hiring for some positions

Falling sales-tax revenue amid COVID-19 shutdown causes budget uncertainty

Posted
Douglas County has frozen hiring for some positions as the response to novel coronavirus substantially blocks a significant source of the government’s revenue — sales tax.
 
While it’s still unknown exactly how big of a hit the county’s budget will take, the finance team is preparing for every possible scenario, budget director Martha Marshall said. While they are in a strong position to weather the situation, some of the possible outcomes are “quite concerning,” she said.
 
“We need to go there because it would be irresponsible for us not to,” she said.
 
Sales tax and property tax are the two biggest revenue streams for the county, with sales tax making up about 21% and property taxes making up about 44%.
 
Because sales-tax revenue has about a two-month delay, the county won’t know how much less revenue was brought in during March until June, Marshall said. Until then, the county plans to work with municipalities, which see their revenues sooner, to help predict the impact they will see.
 
“We can’t say what it will look like because we’re not there yet,” she said. “It depends on how long it lasts.”
 
So far, there hasn’t been any talk of measures like layoffs or furloughs.
 
“We didn’t do that during the recession so that would be an extreme case for us,” Marshall said. 
 
However, if the situation continues, the team may need to consider cutbacks.
 
“If we don’t have ongoing revenue, we’re going to have to make adjustments with ongoing expenditures,” she said.
 
Most of the county’s sales tax revenue goes to capital projects like roads and open space, Marshall said. While most ongoing projects have already been financed, future capital plans could be affected.
 
In addition to the selective hiring freeze, underutilized personnel have been reassigned to staff affected by COVID-19, according to a county statement. Some positions within the Department of Motor Vehicles, for instance, may not be filled. Some DMV workers will instead help out with human services, which has an increase in demand.
 
Douglas County has prepared for situations like this by adopting a financially conservative approach, Marshall said. 
 
“Historically we are very realistic for all our revenue streams ... that helps us keep a balanced budget,” Marshall said. “Entering into the pandemic, we had these philosophies that put us into a good place to manage going forward.”

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