County board approves $44 million in budget adjustments

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Diane Sieker photo

Riverside County supervisors Tuesday, Sept. 17, approved $44.65 million in budget adjustments to rectify imbalances from the previous fiscal year.

The so-called “yearend cleanup” modifications were authorized in a 5-0 vote without comment during the board of supervisors’ policy agenda.

According to the Executive Office, some of the adjustments stem exclusively from accounting revisions, while others are connected to actual losses that came to light after the 2018-2019 fiscal year concluded June 30.

About $13.2 million will have to be drawn from the general fund to cover departments’ shortfalls, while the balance of the total will be paid via agencies’ sub-funds and transfers of unanticipated revenue, officials said.

In a few instances, pension costs had to be recalculated due to accounting changes, according to the Executive Office.

One of the larger deficits was documented by the Department of Waste Resources, which reported nearly $14 million in red ink after the end of 2018-2019. Part of the shortfall was tied to higher expenses at the El Sobrante landfill just south of Corona, which is in high demand, and the other part was associated with “post-closure maintenance costs” from eight landfills no longer in use, according to the Executive Office.

Officials said most of the spending gap has been covered with internal revenue sources, leaving about $3 million unpaid.

According to documents posted to the board agenda, the fire, sheriff’s and probation departments, along with the Economic Development Agency, the Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center and the Transportation and Land Management Agency, all require budget adjustments to balance their books, as required under state law. The amounts vary from a few hundred thousand dollars to several million.

In June, the board adopted a $6.1 billion spending plan for 2019-2020, a roughly 6% increase from the previous year.

The board hammered out a compromise plan to spare several agencies from absorbing big hits to their funding under the fiscal austerity measures originally proposed by the Executive Office to keep spending thresholds at levels intended to whittle down the structural budget deficit plaguing the county’s books since the Great Recession.

Salaries and benefits remain the county’s largest expenditure, with about 40% of revenue dedicated to payroll. Public safety is the largest consumer of general fund appropriations, at 44%, according to the 700-page budget report released in June.

The county is projecting that property tax receipts and motor vehicle license fee revenue will both increase about 6% in the current fiscal year. The two combined comprise the greatest share of general fund discretionary money, which is expected to total just over $1 billion.

Figures showed that discretionary revenue should continue to climb over the next four years, though the $212 million reserve pool will decline as draw-downs are used to cover some costs.