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Mecklenburg County may face $90 million deficit

ecklenburg County Manager Harry Jones is projecting a budget deficit of $90 million next year and ordered immediate budget cuts for most departments. Jones told commissioners this morning that they'll have to cut into the county's muscle and maybe into bone to balance the budget. "The reduction will likely have to be steep to make up $80 to $90 million. And we do that all that, again, on the assumption that these numbers are not going to change and they could change for the worse," said Jones. Jones explained it became clear last month just how big the deficit might be after October's sales tax revenue was calculated. The $90 million deficit took several commissioners by surprise. A few said they expected the shortfall to be half that amount. Still, commissioners indicated that they weren't willing to raise taxes to help plug the hole. "We have some agencies we support-CMS, CPCC-that I think are going to have to take really serious critical looks at their budgets to help us out in this tight economic season, " said Republican Commissioner Karen Bentley. Jones estimates the budget deficit this year stands at $57 million. He ordered most departments to give back 15-percent of what remains in their accounts. CMS and Central Piedmont Community College will have to handover 1-percent. These actions will bring the current deficit down to $39 million. County Commissioners also voted today to delay $253 million of building projects for at least six months. Jones estimates this will save $18 million in debt payments.