FAIRFIELD — Solano County will open hearings Monday to discuss a proposed $817 million budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year, which begins in July.
That figure includes state and federal funds that must go to specific programs, such as health and social services. The focus will likely be on the $209 million general fund that contains the county’s discretionary spending.
Employee unions in recent weeks said that the county’s conservative approach to budgeting makes the financial picture look bleaker than it is. The county’s proposed budget predicts a $14 million structural deficit.
The Board of Supervisors will open budget hearings at 9 a.m. in the county Government Center at 675 Texas St.
Under the proposed budget, Solano County’s general fund is to have $176 million in revenues and $190 million in spending. That leaves a $14 million to be covered with savings.
These figures don’t include contingencies and transfers to reserves. The county keeps a $19 million contingency fund for unforeseen expenses.
Union officials said at a June 11 presentation to supervisors that the county took in more money than it spent over the past two years, despite budget forecasts of multimillion-dollar structural deficits. They said expenditures on average were $17.5 million less than budgeted from 2008-11.
Board Chairwoman Linda Seifert on Wednesday said the county needs to continue to be frugal. She mentioned anticipated upcoming expenses, such as retirement costs that are expected to double by decade’s end because of California Public Employees’ Retirement System changes.
“The budget is pretty much a status-quo budget,” Seifert said.
Given that no significant cuts are proposed, she sees this as a positive turn of events.
The unions and the county have different ways of looking at the budget. For example, the Service Employees International Union Local 1021 presentation mentioned a $119 million general fund carryover from previous years. The county puts this figure at $39 million.
County spokesman Stephen Pierce said both figures are correct. But the union’s figure includes such things as $7.5 million set aside for deferred maintenance, $29 million set aside for undispersed approved loans and $4.9 million set aside for accrued leave payoffs.
Pierce compared the union’s approach to including both checking and savings account money in the carryover.
How long the budget hearings will last is unclear. The supervisors have a meeting scheduled for other issues Tuesday, but could return to the budget then. Budget hearings in past years have ranged from a day to several days.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.