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County mid-year budget review shows finances on track

The county’s budget is in good shape — that’s the message that came out during the mid-year budget review at the regular board of supervisors meeting Feb. 20. The county’s budget consultant, Susan Scarlett, walked the board through each line item and reported that expenditures were down from the previous year.

The mid-year budget review also presented an opportunity to address financial questions and complexities that arose throughout the year. One question from auditor/controller Roberta Allen requested a better process for adjusting a department’s budget when there is a change in a job classification of an employee.

“So we need to get the language and add it to the next budgetary controls for our next budget,” said District 4 Supervisor Lori Simpson.

  Another issue that came up during the budget process was the fact that unfilled positions in departments hold up the finances that could go elsewhere throughout the year. When months have gone by and a positions is unfilled, that predicted pay wasn’t allocated to the position, which means the department will have a surplus at the end of the fiscal year in the area of unfunded positions.

“I’m thinking there should be a mechanism at some point in that process where we look at that budget line items and pull that back into contingency,” said District 3 Supervisor Sherrie Thrall. “That is money that is tied up that other people could use.”

“There is no reason that money can’t be reclaimed for other fiscal purposes at least until the end of the fiscal year,” said County Counsel Craig Settlemire.

“I think it has to be a case-by-case basis to see if we can use that money for something else, or if they are using it to meet the needs of their department,” said Simpson.

Scarlett also reported that general fund revenue has seen a 7 percent increase over the last five years.

“Now I consider that good news,” said Simpson.

The bad news is the looming CalPERS expenses that the county will be liable for due to PERS lack of sufficient funding to meet retirement funding demands.

“It is daunting, I don’t even know what to say about it,” said Scarlett.

Scarlett reported that the unfunded liabilities will go up by 114 percent by 2025, which is about $6 million. The entity, in this case the county, will be responsible to come up with that unfunded liability.

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