Cost-saving measures taken by Barnstable County in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic and consistent revenues through the Barnstable County Registry of Deeds have kept the county on track to balance this fiscal year’s budget.
Finance Director Elizabeth Braccia, reporting to the Barnstable County Board of Commissioners at the end of their regular meeting on Wednesday, May 20, said that although she expects revenues to fall due to the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, she also expects the county’s expenses to dip as well, likely leading to a balanced budget at the end of the fiscal year.
After Governor Charles D. Baker Jr. issued statewide nonessential business closures in mid-March, the county closed its offices and asked that county employees conduct business from home. As a result, the county has seen “major savings” from consumables, Ms. Braccia said, such as drinking water bottles that are in offices, as well as office supplies such as paper.
In addition, Ms. Braccia said that she expects savings to come from lower utility bills. She said that the county buildings have had the heating set at weekend temperatures, since no one is in the building.
Since the closure, the county has also reduced spending to “only really necessary or emergency spending,” Ms. Braccia said.
At the beginning of meeting, Assistant Register of Deeds for Barnstable County David B. Murphy updated the commissioners on the revenues from the registry. Revenues amount to half of the total revenues collected by the county on an annual basis, County Administrator John Yunits Jr. said.
Mr. Murphy said he was confident that the registry will likely hit or exceed the previously estimated figure for the fiscal year.
“We’re hearing good things out there,” Mr. Murphy said. “The real estate market seems to be bouncing back.”
Mr. Murphy said that revenues for fiscal year 2020 would not be a problem, but that he remains unsure if the revenue stream will continue to be secure heading into the early parts of the next fiscal year.
Mr. Murphy said because interest rates for mortgages are at historic lows, those who have not lost jobs due to the economic downturn are well positioned to invest in real estate.
Mr. Murphy said that the sale of expensive properties is “carrying the water” for revenues produced from excise tax, even as the total volume of real estate sales are down.