With about 60 percent of the current fiscal year remaining, Riverside County budget officials are confronted with a familiar problem — projected expenses are greater than projected revenue.
Last week, Chief Financial Officer Ed Corser told the board of supervisors that the county’s anticipated 2013 deficit would be $30 million unless some actions were taken between now and the end of the fiscal year on June 30, 2013.
But in a frustrating repeat of recent budgets, Corser is already estimating a $37 million deficit for next fiscal year. Supervisor Marion Ashley (District 5) stressed that whatever needs to be done to ensure a balanced budget should be done.
Similar to the little Dutch boy plugging his fingers in Holland’s dikes, the new leak this year is the county’s Regional Medical Center. The size of the Medical Center’s financial leak ranges from $14 million to more than $36 million.
“We now have a structurally balanced budget and want to keep it that way,” Corser said. “We have an obligation to meet and have to deal with problems as they arise.”
Nevertheless, Corser was optimistic that county officials, with the assistance of the hospital administrator Doug Begley, will reduce the cash flow problem emanating from the facility. The budgetary stresses on the Medical Center are primarily for services to county jail inmates, mental health patients and emergency room visits.
The sheriff’s and the fire departments account for the remainder of the possible red ink. The Sheriff’s Department is hiring and training 50 new deputies. In addition, the implementation of a new countywide communications system is generating additional costs for both departments.
Neither County Executive Jay Orr nor Corser was optimistic that an increase in revenue would occur within the next few years, thus relieving them and the board of making additional program cuts.
“Real estate prices are slowly improving, but foreclosures and the slow pace of mortgage refinancing continue to depress the real estate market and economic activity. Those forces will likely hold back discretionary revenue growth for several years,” Orr wrote in his “First Quarter Budget Report.”
County officials are studying possible realignment and reorganization of information technology functions as a way to generate savings going forward. Orr estimated these changes might achieve possible savings between $40 million and $60 million.
Fiscal year 2015-16 may be the next budget when revenues will exceed projected expenses, according to Corser.