FAIRFIELD — Solano County supervisors on Monday passed an $857 million budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year that covers services that range from health care for the needy to jails to criminal justice to libraries to county parks.
Much of the state and federal money in the budget must be spent on certain programs. The county in part delivers various state programs locally.
The $857 million budget compares to $869 million for the 2013-14 year. A major difference is capital spending, which is to shrink by $14 million, in part because of the completion of the Clay Bank Jail expansion.
“I think it’s a good-news budget, in terms of you have some recovery,” County Administrator Birgitta Corsello told the board.
But there’s not enough recovery to look at all kinds of new ideas, she said.
Supervisors Erin Hannigan, Linda Seifert, Jim Spering, Skip Thomson and John Vasquez approved the budget after a five-hour hearing at the county Government Center.
Spending remains short of the $1-billion-plus budget the board approved for 2008-09, before the Great Recession sent national, state and county finances into a downward spiral. The county is to have 2,800 positions, compared to more than 3,000 before the recession.
“We are really not in what I consider full recovery, in terms of revenue,” Corsello said.
The portion of the budget that the Board of Supervisors can spend as it chooses is the general fund. This is the money such as property taxes and sales taxes that doesn’t come to the county for a specific purpose.
Solano County for the coming fiscal year is to have a general fund budget with $184.5 million in income and $196.1 million in spending, leaving a shortfall of $11.6 million. The county can cover that shortfall with savings, since it expects to begin the fiscal year with a carryover of $22.2 million not included in the revenue total.
When calculating the shortfall, the county makes such assumptions as all 2,800 county positions being filled at all times, something that in practice doesn’t happen. The county a year ago estimated the 2013-14 general fund structural deficit would be $14 million. The latest estimate for 2013-14 is $2.9 million.
Susiun City resident George Guynn during public comments disagreed with the county’s depiction of the general fund being balanced, given that expected expenses outstrip revenues.
“It’s not balanced,” Guynn told the board.
Corsello during the opening presentation said the county has nothing hidden in its general fund budget, despite some accusations. She then showed a slide of the general fund savings beyond the $22.2 million carryover.
Solano County has $5.7 million set aside for deferred maintenance, $5.8 million for unfunded employee leave payoffs, $16 million for upcoming California Public Employees’ Retirement System increases and $46 million in reserves for emergencies such as natural disasters.
Supervisors brought up concerns after hearing the budget presentation. For example, Thomson wanted to give Assessor-Recorder Marc Tonnesen’s department an additional property appraiser to keep up with rises in property values, which generates more property taxes.
“We’re going to see that market moving up and Marc has to be ready to capture that revenue,” Thomson said.
The board agreed.
Vasquez asked to add $2,500 to the amount each supervisor can spend on community organizations within his or her district, bringing the total per district to $5,000. He asked that each supervisor be able to add a half-position to his or her staff at a cost of about $50,000, in addition to the one full-time staff position each already has.
The board agreed, though Spering and Thomson said they would not take the extra $2,500 or half-time staff member for their own district budgets.
The budget makes a few service increases.
Among them, the county plans to keep Lake Solano Park open a few hours later during the summer. The park along Putah Creek near Winter has been open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends.
“The canoers and kayakers have increased in the last few years,” Parks Services Manager Dan Sykes said earlier this month. “The really hot days, sometimes (present hours) are not the nicest part of the day on the creek.”
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.