At its June 18 meeting, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors approved a tentative fiscal year 2019-20 budget. This included five adjustments that the County Executive Office must incorporate into the final budget proposal, which was on the June 25 agenda for approval.
The entire board heard the public opposition to a proposed reduction in the Cooperative Extension program at its June 10 public hearing. This program, in cooperation with the University of California, Riverside, provided agricultural education programs, such as the local 4H, to school-age students.
Immediately after the public comments, the board unanimously agreed to restore $562,000 for this program.
“The message is received. We’ll identify ways to move cooperative staff from leased space to county-owned, and ways to share support staff,” CEO George Johnson said at the hearing.
Supervisor Manual Perez, District 4, requested a restoration of $500,000 for the Code Enforcement budget. He argued that CE inspections often find potential areas vulnerable to fire and require that they be improved. This is less costly, especially for the whole community, than to have to respond to a fire.
Another $1.5 million was recommended for the Economic Development Agency. Third District Supervisor Chuck Washington felt that the reductions over the past few years have impended the agency’s efforts to solicit and bring new businesses with jobs to the county.
The added funding will reduce the $20 million contingency, leaving a balance of $17.4 million entering the new fiscal year.
Two other changes do not have direct and immediate fiscal impacts. First, Chair Kevin Jeffries, District 2, recommended that the EO more thoroughly review the budget for the Animal Services Department. The purpose is to find potential savings and operating efficiencies that might obviate or, at least, lower the proposed increases in fees and rates for residents of unincorporated areas.
This could include contracts with nonprofit or joint power organizations to provide some of these services.
The fifth change directs the EO to enforce Jeffries proposal for county agencies to use county-owned office space rather than leased space. His intent is to find savings wherever possible.
“… [N]et county cost funded departments that lease office space … shall be directed by the County Executive Officer to relocate to available county-owned office space. If a department does not want to utilize county-owned space when available, the net county cost portion of their budget will be reduced in the amount of the difference between the private net annual lease and the county new annual lease. Waivers from this can be granted by the CEO, provided the board is notified in advance.”