County Government

Supervisors to consider county budget at Tuesday meeting

By From page A5 | June 15, 2014

Yolo County supervisors will take a first look at the recommended county budget for 2014-15 when the board meets on Tuesday morning.

The proposed budget looks a lot like the one approved by county supervisors last year, with total expenditures of $308 million and three unfunded liabilities totaling $589 million, the largest of which — $305 million — is in road maintenance.

Other highlights include a $1 million increase in general-purpose revenue over 2013-14, a $737,459 increase in the general fund reserve and a few additional positions added for the expansion of Medi-Cal.

Yolo County has seen a steady decline in county employees as a result of budget cuts that began about the time the recession did, including a decrease of 400 full-time-equivalent positions between 2008 and 2013.

Those staffing cutbacks helped dig the county out of a budget deficit and begin steps toward rebuilding the general fund reserve, officials have said, and as a result, the county has seen its credit rating improve.

“This (recommended) budget continues the Board of Supervisors’ focus on long-term fiscal planning, which was recognized this year when Standard and Poor’s raised the county’s credit rating to A- with a stable outlook,” said Yolo County Administrator Patrick Blacklock.

But those cutbacks also have left Yolo County with a lower ratio of employees to residents than comparable counties. At 6.4 employees per 1,000 residents, Yolo is significantly lower than Glenn County (16.6), Colusa County (16.4), Lake County (14.5), San Joaquin County (8.9) and Sonoma County (8).

Blacklock said current economic and budget projections indicate an uncertain future, with the Yolo County continuing to experience a higher unemployment rate than surrounding areas, the rest of the state and the nation.

Yolo County’s current unemployment is about 10 percent, compared to 8 percent for California and 6 percent for the rest of the country, according to Blacklock.

“Job growth, while improving, continues at a slow pace,” Blacklock writes in his budget letter to the board. “Similar to the 2013-14 budget, the 2014-15 budget continues to generally reflect flat local general-purpose revenues.”

As in the past, spending on health and human services takes up the largest chunk of the budget (42 percent) followed by law and justice (24 percent). General government consumes 19 percent and planning and public works 14 percent, with the remaining 1 percent going to capital improvement.

The county budget is composed of seven major funds and a large number of smaller special funds, internal service funds, enterprise funds, debt service and capital project accounts. The recommended budget includes:

* General fund: $62 million
* Employment and social services fund: $81 million
* Public safety fund: $75 million
* Medical services and indigent health care funds: $17 million
* Mental health fund: $26 million
* Road fund: $15 million
* Library fund: $6 million
* Child support services: $6 million
* Cache Creek area plan: $897,724

There are three major unfunded liabilities that continue to be a concern to the overall health of the county fiscal climate, Blacklock said.

Pensions, retiree health and road maintenance have a combined current estimated liability of $588.6 million.

The pension liability of $145 million is being addressed through pension reform and lowering of the formula for new employees as well as a change in the CalPERS rate, Blacklock said.

The retiree health liability of $138 million is being addressed through additional funds being added to the trust, capping the county premium contribution and one-time funds being reserved.

But the road maintenance liability of $305.5 million has yet to be addressed. Blacklock said staff is developing options for consideration that may include a regional capital improvement and financing plan. Last year there were suggestions that that plan come in the form of a countywide sales tax on the November 2016 ballot.

But while two of the three unfunded liabilities are being addressed, none has been reduced in the last year. The retiree health liability and road maintenance liability remain unchanged and the pension liability has increased by $5 million since this time last year.

County supervisors are expected to approve a budget Tuesday as an interim spending plan pending the adoption of the state budget later this summer, and supervisors would then approve a final budget in September.

The budget hearing gets underway at 9 a.m. in the Board of Supervisors chambers at 625 Court St. in Woodland. The recommended budget for 2014-15 is available online at www.yolocounty.org/general-government/general-government-departments/county-administrator/budget-finance/2013-14-county-budget.

— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at [email protected] or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy

Anne Ternus-Bellamy

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