While revenues are increasing for Riverside County, future expenses seem to be growing even faster than revenues. This is one conclusion Riverside County Executive Officer George Johnson said in his report to the Board of Supervisors on the results of the first quarter of fiscal year 2018-19.
Johnson said the current estimate for full-year revenue is $14.8 million greater than the budget, which the supervisors adopt in June.
He also stressed that county agencies are absorbing many cost increases while still providing services. “We continue to ask departments to absorb compensation and other cost increases without additional general fund support, and these de facto cuts are reducing service levels,” he lamented.
But the need, or demands, for more funding continue rather than abate. Johnson told the board that the Cranston and Holy fires have already cost the Emergency Management Department $1.7 million. This cost may grow during the winter and spring depending upon the timing and amount of precipitation in these areas, including the Hill.
While much of these costs will be reimbursed, Johnson estimated that it might take the county a year or two to recover its costs.
In-home supportive services will need another $11 million this year and the Riverside University Health System clinic’s expected loss is now about $10 million more than when the budget was prepared.
The Sheriff and Fire departments’ budgets currently project to be within their total allocations. However, the District Attorney’s and Public Defender’s offices will need more funding for the year.
The “big” costs are coming next year and beyond. Johnson’s financial staff projected that pension obligations will increase $13.6 million next year and another $28 million the year after.
“… [W]ithin two years, for every four employees, the county is paying for a position strictly in pension costs, and for every two public-safety employees, the county is paying for a position in pension costs,” he advised the board.
And he added, “These costs continue to put financial strain and pressure on any method of achieving savings and efficiencies we gain.”