County governments battle budget health

By Brenda Matherly

While budget solvency is always a priority for units of local government, the COVID-19 pandemic has local officials counting every penny this year. County government, in counties of all sizes, are bracing for a massive budgetary impact.

A recent study by the National Association of Counties shows that counties across the nation are staring down the barrel of potentially a $144 billion loss in revenue through 2021. At the same time, county governments are being asked to provide stepped-up, critical services needed for COVID-19 response and recovery efforts.

Considering funding structures and revenue sources for counties across the nation, the study’s estimated loss breakdown includes revenue shortfalls from sources such as sales tax, business license tax, gaming tax, local income tax, and local fees and charges. Excluding property taxes, Illinois counties will be hit especially hard in revenue loss from sales tax, motor fuel tax and special event taxes. The study also projects Illinois could see an additional $2 billion impact due to locally decided delays in property tax revenue.

This current strain on county budgets will push many of them to their limit. Many counties across the state will likely cut services, lay off or furlough employees, and place projects and infrastructure maintenance on the back burner.

Where possible, monitor your county’s website for information and updates on services, staffing and COVID-19 resources.

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