In introducing the 2013-14 fiscal year budget workshop, County Executive Jay Orr wrote in a memorandum to the board of supervisors, “While the county balanced the FY 12-13 adopted budget, going forward significant risks and challenges remain. Although the Executive Office anticipates modest revenue growth long-term, beginning in FY 13-14, the county also confronts steep cost escalations.”
Labor costs will increase countywide because of negotiated changes in future retirement costs. The new public safety communications system will also add significant costs to the overall budget.
However, at the Monday, April 1, budget workshop, public safety agencies and the Riverside County Medical Center in Moreno Valley told the board that they would have substantially greater funding needs next year.
Sheriff Stan Sniff warned the board that his department’s funding level in 2013-14 will be $54 million more than this year. Nearly 16 percent will be for the new public safety communication system.
The new executive office’s budget target is “a bridge too far for us” Sniff told the board. “We still need $54 million, but we’ll do the best we can.”
Other pressing needs will be additional deputies hired to bring the ratio of deputies to residents back to 1 deputy per 1,000 residents. Sniff expects to achieve this ratio in early 2014 and with the Board’s support continue to exceed it in future years.
Several supervisors, including Kevin Jeffries (1st District) and Jeff Stone (3rd District) encouraged the sheriff to continue to utilize citizens through the Neighborhood Watch programs. Sniff concurred and expects these programs to begin to be rejuvenated as sheriff’s staffing grows.
A.B. 109, jail and prison realignment between the state and counties, continues to generate additional local costs for county agencies, including the sheriff, district attorney, probation and the hospital.
Proposed increases for patrol and corrections activities are nearly 80 percent of the sheriff’s total requested growth. The combined effect of these initiatives on the sheriff’s patrol budget requires an additional $25.9 million next year, about half of the total increase. The corrections programs will need $20.4 million more in 2013-14.
The Medical Center Executive Officer Doug Bagley told the board that this year’s budget will create a nearly $50 million problem next year. Cost of living increases will add another $15 million to that total.
Fire Chief John Hawkins affirmed he is working with staff to find budget solutions that will ensure all fire stations remain open.
“I pledge we’re doing the very best we can to protect public safety day in and day out, and also pledge to you we’re trying our very best to stay within budget restraints,” the Chief told the board. “But it’s a choice of bad alternatives.”
The fire department budget is $7.1 million greater than its target. Much of that is a $5.7 million carryover from this year. But Hawkins stressed the department has not purchased any new engines since 2007. This and vehicle maintenance are issues which must be addressed during this budget cycle.
Contributing to his department budget problems has been the dramatic decline in the structure fire tax. Since fiscal 2008-09, fire tax revenue has fallen $11.7 million, but if the assessor’s projection of slight property tax increases next year occurs, Hawkins estimated the fire tax will grow $370,000.