Solano County

County to discuss midyear budget situation

By February 12, 2014

FAIRFIELD — Solano County’s midyear budget forecast for its 2013-14 general fund budget calls for $180.5 million in revenues and $190.3 million in expenditures.

That would leave a gap of $9.8 million when the fiscal year ends June 30. But the general fund would still have a balance of $17.3 million because of money left over from previous fiscal years.

Also, the predicted structural deficit of $9.8 million would be less than the $14.7 million predicted at the beginning of the fiscal year, with time remaining to further close the gap. The county in recent years has been able to erase predicted structural deficits and end up with surpluses.

County supervisors will discuss the midyear budget report when they meet at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the county Government Center, 675 Texas St.

“I thought it was quite favorable,” Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Linda Seifert said Monday. “I think we need to continue to be vigilant with our resources.”

The budget report had no significant surprises, she said.

Forecasts for multimillion-dollar structural deficits have been common for the county’s general fund for the past five years. A structural deficit means that expenses outstrip revenues for that particular fiscal year, not that the county is out of money. The county budgets have called for using savings to cover the gaps.

But the county hasn’t actually had a structural deficit once the fiscal year books closed since 2009-10.

For example, the midyear budget report for 2012-13 predicted a $4.7 million structural deficit. But the county closed the fiscal year with $173.4 million in expenses and $185 million in revenues, in large part because of $9.5 million in one-time redevelopment agency dissolution money.

Also, county budgets assume that all positions are filled, but in reality the county has a vacancy rate as jobs turn over.

Whether the county must dip into savings to cover a structural deficit for this fiscal year depends on what happens over the next few months. Vacancy rates and one-time revenues are among the factors that could further change the budget picture.

“Our attention on focusing on the structural deficit is a proactive measure,” county spokesman Stephen Pierce said. “If left unchecked, this is what would happen.”

The county pays attention to the predicted structural deficit to try to keep it from coming to fruition, he said.

Seifert said she’s told county officials she doesn’t want the county to make budget moves that, if the economy has a downturn, result in having to lay off county workers again.

That happened in the wake of fiscal year 2008-09, when predictions of a large structural deficit came true. The general fund had $206 million in revenues and $218 million in expenses, with savings covering the gap. The Board of Supervisors in 2009 voted to lay off more than 100 workers.

Pierce said that, in those days, the cuts the county made to its budget couldn’t keep up with falling revenues.

Solano County’s general fund budget is the portion of the county’s $852 million budget that supervisors directly control. Other parts of the budget contain state and federal funds for such things as health and social services that must be spent in certain ways.

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling has been a reporter with the Daily Republic since 1987. He covers Solano County government, transportation, growth and the environment. He received his bachelors of art degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara and his masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley.

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