The Riverside County budget promises little improvement through the end of the current fiscal year (June 30).
“There are some signs that economic recovery is accelerating in Riverside County,” Interim County Executive Officer Larry Parish told the board of supervisors. Nevertheless Parish reported that revenue fell during the second quarter of this year.
Consequently, his mid-year report estimates that current year revenues will fall $6 million short of the initial forecast from last spring. The estimated deficit for the 2012-13 budget is still $80 million.
To overcome this fiscal chasm, Parish made several recommendations. His strategy includes a $40 million cut in county expenses. The path to accomplish these cuts will require a three percent reduction in public safety budgets and 28 percent in other departments’ budgets.
To demonstrate his seriousness, Parish has already asked the nonpublic safety officials to begin preparing reduction plans in order to achieve the full year’s savings rather than waiting until July (when the budget is passed) to begin planning for cuts. Any prospective staff reductions should be outlined with the county’s Human Resource staff by May 1.
Estimated carryover from 2011-12 and additional sales tax receipts are the other recommendations for solving next year’s deficit. Parish expects to deliver the third-quarter report to the board at its May 1 session.
Although Parish is confident that his solutions will balance next year’s budget, many possible problems are lurking in the next few months. For example, the registrar of voters may need an additional $2 million if the state cuts its funding for elections. Other possible budget issues include realignment (state prisoners to county jails), the state’s 2011-12 trigger cuts which could affect county health programs, the creation of additional correctional facility space (new or expansion of existing facilities) and county labor and pension costs.
Parish told the board, “The county’s current pension benefit levels are clearly unsustainable long-term.”
The 2012-13 budget proposal should be presented to the board at their June 11 meeting and final adoption is targeted for July 17.