$1.6 million deficit projected for Yuba County
Yuba County will begin 2012-13 with a projected deficit, but the good new is it's a fraction of what the county's dealt with in recent years.
In a presentation to county supervisors Tuesday, County Administrator Robert Bendorf said the county's general fund will be about $1.6 million in the hole as of July 1, owing to both increased employee costs and either flat or still declining revenues.
"I think the board knows from previous presentations, this hasn't been the rosiest of numbers in the past," Bendorf said at the outset, referring to a deficit of $4.1 million for 2011-12 and an even bigger $10.7 million in 2010-11, less than two years ago.
Though the county has cut about 40 positions, sliced its vehicle fleet by about a third, and used some one-time revenues to fill holes, he said, he felt the service levels for county residents has remained about the same.
For next year's budget, the largest changes in expenses are $312,557 more in salaries and $228,255 in increased pension costs, though those figures include non-general fund dollars, which are non-discretionary.
General fund employees won't receive cost-of-living pay raises in 2012-13, but will receive merit and longevity increases, for an increase of $188,181. Bendorf noted the total allocated employee positions in the county are now at the same level as before 2000-01.
But he said he's especially concerned about the rise in health care costs, with monthly premiums for an employee and his or her family rising from $458 in 2000 to $1,493 this year, more than tripling.
Because Bendorf's office projects revenues to be flat or even slightly down for 2012-13, he said, the county will receive about $600,000 less.
But while the increase in employee costs and drop in revenues, plus about $539,678 in missing one-time revenues, adds up to a $1.6 million deficit, the hole could still be smaller, he said.
Rollover funds, essentially what's still in the general fund at the end of June, could cut the deficit in half, based on what's happened in recent years. As such, he said, he didn't expect the county to have more than minimal service-level reductions and layoffs.
He added, "The economy slipped a lot harder and a lot more dramatically than we will ever see it go up in future years."
Bendorf's presentation kicks off the budget process, with county department heads expected to submit their proposed budgets by early March. A recommended budget would go before the board in June.
When those department budgets come in, said Supervisor John Nicoletti, he'd like to see them alongside what the administrator's office suggests.
"It's not just the ability to ask a better question, but have a better response to the public when they ask about something that impacts them," he said.
But the board overall seemed happy the financial picture was brighter than it's been in awhile.
"I think it's pretty much what's expected," said board Chairman Hal Stocker. "The recession has hit the bottom, and it's going up slowly."
CONTACT Ben van der Meer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 749-4786. Find him on Facebook at /ADbvandermeer or on Twitter at @ADbvandermeer.