The Loop Newspaper - Tehachapi's Online Community News & Entertainment Guide

By Zack Scrivner
Kern County Supervisor 

County budget update

From our Supervisor

 


At the July 18 Board of Supervisors meeting, my colleagues and I received an update on the county budget process from County Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop. The county is still in the midst of a fiscal emergency, but we are making progress, currently in the second year of our five-year budget restructuring plan.

The price of oil is predicted to remain flat, and low, for the foreseeable future. This has a major impact on the revenue the county receives from property taxes. However, revenue from property taxes as a whole has increased over last year. Other mitigation measures taken by the county to stabilize our budget are working, and the structural budget deficit currently stands at $19.5 million for the General Fund, and $8.5 million for the Fire Fund. The county was able to balance these two deficits with carry-forward funds from last fiscal year, spending reductions, and minimal use of reserves.

There are several successes in this budget also. Public safety, the number one priority of the Board, has been strengthened and maintained, library and spay/neuter services have been funded, the new jail facility is funded and will begin operations soon, major maintenance projects countywide are going ahead, capital improvement projects at our county parks have also received stable allocations, and future pension costs have been addressed by placing carry-forward funds into a dedicated reserve designation. In addition, we have reduced our structural deficit and are relying far less on reserves, $12 million less, than projected at this time last year.

More good news on the structural budget deficit front: along with increases in property tax revenue, our fiscal mitigation plan has reduced the structural deficit by 50%, which was primarily caused by the significant loss of $63 million in property tax revenue from oil and gas properties. This effort has been undertaken without any mass layoffs or significant service level impacts. Restricted hiring, and an initiative to “hire from within” (over 60 positions have been moved from General Fund to non-General Fund departments since January of this year) continue to result in substantial savings in personnel costs.

In conclusion, the county isn’t out of the woods yet, but the Board of Supervisors and all our department heads are committed to our budget plan of reducing costs, finding efficiencies, and maintaining service levels. I am pleased with the results the county has achieved so far, and pledge to keep working to improve the county’s fiscal health.

 
 

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