While I was off adventuring, the Board of Supervisors quietly and without a lot of drama approved a Recommended Budget for the fiscal year 2013/14, beginning July 1, 2013.
This seems among the most significant of annual actions, and so I report it here. This report is made possible in part using a nifty new on-line device. Since early May, the Board has provided a video of each Board meeting on its web page. Go to www.co.shasta.ca.us. Then go to the Board of Supervisors, then to the Agendas and Minutes.
You will find agendas, minutes (once approved in a subsequent meeting), and the video of the meeting. The video is linked to an agenda and back-up information for each item, so that you can watch only the item(s) you want, and can review the item information as it is discussed. The new provider of video services is AV Capture All.
County budget development begins in January of each year with a mid-year assessment of the current expenditures and development of expected revenues and expenditures for the following fiscal year.
The Shasta County budget was described in the meeting as responding to the conservative values of the county. The budget also represents a commitment to collaboration among department and agency heads and a culture of saving. These characteristics are reflected in the fact that there were no Department head appeals to the Board and no outside agency appeals of the proposed budget items.
The 2013-14 budget proposes a total of $399 million, including local, state and federal funds. This is $6.2 million, or l.6%, higher than the budget in 2012-13. About 80% of the total is paid for with state, federal and other designated funds that are earmarked for specific purposes.
The General Fund budget, over which the Board has discretion, is only $69 million. This amount will be financed by revenues of approximately $58.5 million and a carry-over of $11 million from this year. County Executive Officer Larry Lees reminded Board members that the purpose of reserves is to maintain services during times of economic stress.
These reserves should be put back in place as the economy improves so that they are available when needed in the future. The 2013-14 budget proposes a contingency reserve of $5 million.
Generally, this is a status quo budget. The modest increase is related to implementation of the Affordable Care Act by the Health and Human Services Agency and the continued implementation of Public Safety Realignment. Both of these programs are funded with state and/or federal funds. The county personnel summary shows a modest net increase of 14 positions for a total of 1862.5 positions.
The budget as presented includes some challenges. The Board believes that Public Safety Realignment is underfunded by the state and that the jail and probation programs responding to the transfer of offenders to the county may not be adequate to the task.
The county’s Mental Health program has already expressed concerns that long term inpatient care costs are increasing due to increases in the severity of illness and duration of care for patients presenting to the program.
The county fire department is financed on the basis of carry-over funds from this year. This is not a sustainable practice, and by 2015-16 could impact emergency response services. Finally, the Governor’s state budget proposes to reclaim some health services funds, in anticipation of projected savings to counties for the costs of indigent health care when the Affordable Care Act is implemented.
Shasta County could lose $2 million if these funds are reclaimed by the state. The County is concerned that funds are proposed to be taken before any savings have materialized.
There was only one public testifier at the budget hearing, Charles Alexander, a frequent testifier before the Board. He would like to see policy promotion activities (such as the campaign to encourage a reduction in salt consumption) reported as a separate budget item in the Public Health department’s budget.
So, with very little excitement, the 2013-14 Recommended Budget was adopted unanimously by the Board.
Catherine Camp is currently retired. She served as a Consultant to the California Senate Budget Committee in 2001-02, reviewing Social Services, Employment Development, Aging, Community Services, Alcohol and Drug Programs, Rehabilitation and Child Support budgets. From 1989-2000, Catherine was Executive Director for the California Mental Health Directors Association. During that period, Catherine staffed the county mental health system’s restructuring of public mental health through Realignment of community and long term care programs from the state to the county, transfer of the management of specialty mental health Medi-Cal services to those counties that agreed to provide them, development of risk mechanisms for consortia of small counties, and advocacy and policy analysis for the operation of public mental health programs throughout the state. Her prior experience includes Executive Director to the California-Nevada Community Action Association, Principal Consultant to the Assembly Human Services Policy Committee, and Director of Community Action and Head Start programs in Shasta County.