At the July 7 meeting, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors unanimously adopted a budget for fiscal 2015-16.
While the budget is currently balanced, several department heads, including the Sheriff and District Attorney, acknowledged that additional funding will be necessary before the end of the fiscal year (June 30, 2016).
But the Board Chair Marion Ashley, District 5, said, “We have adequate funds to take care of things if they come up.”
County Executive Officer Jay Orr added $8 million to the District Attorney’s budget and another $3 million for the Assessor’s office. More importantly, both he and Financial Officer Ed Corser warned the Supervisors that the balancing act relied on several million dollars of one-time funds.
“If we can’t continue to find more one-time money [next year], or if we don’t get additional money, we will have to look at reserves,” Corser said. “But I don’t feel that we should ever look at reserves to balance a budget unless we’re in free fall like we were during the recession.”
A discussion of the use of one-time money followed. Supervisor Kevin Jeffries (1st District) argued that it might be more prudent to use one-time money to pay down debt, which would result in additional funding availability in the future.
Third District supervisor Chuck Washington also expressed some concern about relying on funding which is non-recurring.
“My fear is that we, in government, become a drag on the economy,” he said. “I’ve seen cities get into trouble spending one-time money. But I understand why we’re doing it.”
Some of the board is hopeful that the audits of public safety programs will yield financial benefits for future years. Later in the session, the board authorized Orr to solicit bids for doing these reviews.
“The audits [of these agencies] may lead to more efficiencies and allow us to save quite a few dollars,” said Supervisor John Tavaglione, District 2. “If so, then we won’t have to use one-time money or reserves and can pay down debt.”
Orr stressed that the approved budget will assure that the Sheriff’s Department can maintain the ratio of 1.04 deputies per thousand residents in the unincorporated areas, such as Idyllwild.
Neither the Sheriff nor the District Attorney will begin the fiscal year concerned about lay-offs. The budget levels are sufficient for them to maintain current staffing levels, according to Orr.
“I think we’re good for this year,” he told the board.
However, in Orr’s letter to the Supervisors, he did alert them to the future problem, “… ongoing discretionary revenue is not projected to keep pace with the costs of the Board’s long-term commitments and mandates impose on the county.”