The current-year Riverside County budget continues to show a deficit and preliminary indications are that the next fiscal-year budget, which starts July 1, will continue the shortfalls. The initial projected deficit is about $127 million, of which $65 million is just the Sheriff’s Department’s initial request.
While these deficits are offset from reserves, the county continues to spend more than it collects, and the difference appears to be growing.
“… [U]sing one-time funding will be unavoidable to close this fiscal year and cover the projected gap next fiscal year,” County Executive Officer Jay Orr wrote in his Third Quarter Budget Report. “I recognize this is unsustainable, and an ongoing solution will be necessary to bring the budget into structural balance.”
Public-safety agencies continue to expend greater than their budgets, but these deficits also continue to decline. For example, the Sheriff’s Department forecast a $46 million deficit when the fiscal year began and has reduced this projection to $29.7 million.
The District Attorney, Fire Department, Mental Health, Public Defender and Courts all reported they expect costs to exceed their budgets.
Implementing Proposition 47 has resulted in a greater workload for Mental Health to support inmates at Patton State Hospital. This will be a continuing responsibility, which might grow to nearly $3 million next fiscal year.
Among his current recommendations, Orr advocated ending the current county commitment of $1.5 million for the University of California, Riverside’s new medical school. This savings will help fund replacement and upgrades of equipment at the county’s Regional Medical Center in Moreno Valley.
“The significant current-year financial challenges outlined above frame substantial challenges for the FY15-16 budget that cannot be minimized,” he concluded.
To help limit expenditures, Orr directed in April that his office review and approve purchasing services and supplies for the remainder of the fiscal year.
Orr’s report did contain some good news. Property tax estimates and redevelopment residual assets will provide a $10.1-million increase to revenues.
The growth in county costs will continue in fiscal 2015-16. “Next fiscal year, further labor increases go into effect, as well as pension obligations and internal service rate increases that will create additional financial strain for most departments,” Orr reported.
Nevertheless, Orr’s conclusion was positive, promising he would recommend a balanced 2015-16 budget in June, when he submits it to the board.