Sedgwick County: Economic Conditions Worsening Rapidly

By: Jennifer Bocchieri Email
By: Jennifer Bocchieri Email

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Sedgwick County Commissioners get some discouraging news about the area's economy Wednesday morning.

Since late October, the county's economy has taken a big turn for the worse and in the coming year commissioners will likely have to raid their rainy day fund to get through.

In the year ending in November 2008 unempoyment claims in the county were up 38% but in November alone they jumped to 71%. And that doens't even count the recent layoffs numbering in the thousands.

Home sales during the year fell 16% then in November alone plummeted 25%.

New construction permits were down 15% for the year then dropped 34% in November alone.

And new plane and parts orders that dropped 14% during the year went down 25% in November alone.

Sales tax revenue is also falling and that, combined with expected state cuts totaling millons, means the economic downturn is starting to hit Sedgwick County full force.

Still Sedgwick County Chief Financial Officer Chris Chronis says,"This is not the time I think for the county to say the sky is falling and we're not going to spend money on anything."

After the economic downturn in the years following 2001, the county started a savings fund to help deal with the next downturn. Chronis says now is the time to start raiding that fund to help pay for services.

That would include spending on mental health, aging (helpiing the elderly who've lost their retirement money), public health (for those who lost their health insurance) and law enforcement. During the last downturn domestic and child abuse cases saw a double digit increase.

"It's clear we are aware of the challeges we're faced with but we have through good management the resources available to take our time as we rationally evaluate what's going to happen," said County Commissioner Dave Unruh.

Commissioners will hear more about how to move forward in their staff retreat this February and in budget discussions starting this spring.

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