Although the total Riverside County budget exceeds $5.5 billion, the Board of Supervisors has direct and authoritative control over less than 20 percent.

For fiscal year 2018-19, which begins in less than a month, the “discretionary” portion of spending will be $799.5 million.

Regardless of whether one looks at the total county budget, the general funds expenditures or the “discretionary” funding, public protection, sheriff, fire, district attorney, public defenders, probation and some healthcare programs are consistently where most of the spending is directed.

Public protection will receive $1.7 billion of total appropriations in 2018-19, a proposed increase of $41 million. From the $3.3-billion general fund, $1.4 billion, nearly 44 percent, goes to public protection. The proposed discretionary budget of $800 million includes $617 million, slightly more than 75 percent for public protection.

Although County Executive Officer George Johnson is telling the supervisors that much greater use and emphasis has been placed on performance and key indicators, the areas driving future growth remain the same.

“Provisions of past labor agreements and steeply rising pension obligations continue to increase costs for salaries and benefits across departments,” he wrote in the 2018-2019 budget submission.

And the county will continue to grapple with how much new funding will be allocated to the Sheriff’s Department to begin operations at the new John J. Benoit Detention Center versus how much the sheriff will have to reassign or re-direct internal resources.

“Over these past few months, the sheriff’s staff worked closely with CEO staff on our needs for this upcoming budget year, including the needed additional funding for the required new positions to be hired for the phased-in opening of the new John Benoit Detention Center when construction is completed,” Sheriff Stan Sniff wrote to the Town Crier. “Our budget, along with the additional CEO recommendations that are being forwarded to the board for approval, are appropriate and provides us with a reasonably balanced budget this next year, and allows us to hire needed new positions …”

Other issues that will affect expenditure growth include the healthcare settlement for jail inmate services and the county’s increasing insurance costs for liability and worker’s compensation.

Johnson estimates, when fiscal year 2020-21 arrives, the county’s “structural deficit” will be overcome. But until then, reserves will continue to supplement the difference between revenues and costs.

In fiscal year 2018-19, this difference is projected to approach $19 million, with revenues at $781 million and a 4-percent increase, and costs will be close to $800 million.

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