Last week the Mono County Board of Supervisors dove into budget workshops, hearing from every department and holding policy discussions regarding the 2013-14 numbers.
While staff presented a balanced budget, the amount available was $63 million rather than the $71 million of last year. This reduction set the budget theme of doing more with less.
According to Mono County CAO Jim Leddy, the reduction is due to intergovernmental revenue reductions. In other words, the County had been receiving federal and state grant funds for certain projects, some of which are either near completion or completed, so the funding has ceased.
The 2013-14 recommended budget had a General Fund component of more than $35 million, and funds 285.1 Full Time Equivalent Employees.
In his opening remarks on Tuesday, Leddy described the budget as “a bridge” to get from “the way the County used to conduct business to the way the County has to conduct business.”
“The public needs to know what the public’s business is doing,” Leddy said. He reflected that the County had not banked money from the “bubble” days and therefore would now have to deal with diminished coffers.
Leddy further explained that one-third of the County’s budget comes from outside impacts, so being present at outside forums such as RCRC (Rural County Representatives of California), is extremely important.
While the recommended budget proposed no layoffs, Leddy pointed out that it also proposed no compensation increases. The County is carrying fewer employees than 2003, but the costs are the same because the people cost more.
“We are doing more with less people,” Leddy said.
Supervisor Larry Johnston took issue with Leddy’s analysis of the County’s failure to keep up its reserves and bank money during the high times, pointing out that there had been an emergency need in the Solid Waste Enterprise Fund that had to be taken care of.
“There needs to be a balance between just having a reserve for reserve’s sake and using that reserve when it’s needed,” Johnston said.
Leddy said the bottom line was that the County did not have a rainy day fund.
The budget also reviewed the County’s long-term unmet needs, with the top three being CARB vehicle replacement, solid waste, and prisoner realignment through AB 109, which could require the County to expand its jail facilities in coming years.
The recommended budget continued to fully fund public safety, which Leddy said was the biggest chunk of the budget at 26 percent.
Leddy explained that going forward, staff planned to have a budget review on a quarterly basis rather than just the bi-annual discussions that are currently implemented. He also planned to start next year’s budget process in June rather than August, since technically the County’s budget is due for completion on July 1 of each year. In the past, and this year, the County passed an interim budget to get it to its August discussions.
Final budget numbers will be available on the County’s website by Aug. 29, Leddy said. There will be a public budget hearing before the Board on Sept. 3 for any further discussion. Budget adoption is anticipated on either Sept. 17 or 24.
See pages 6-8 in this week’s paper for more budget coverage.