Placer County Officials Aim to Balance Budget Priorities
The Placer County Board of Supervisors took an important step Tuesday down a path begun a year ago that seeks to ensure the best balance between high-priority public-service needs and available revenues.
At Tuesday's meeting, board members informally approved a multi-year budget framework that seeks to balance county priorities with available resources.
"It is clear that county revenue is gradually recovering from the recession years, but is not increasing quickly enough to keep pace with projected cost increases," said Board Chairman Jim Holmes. "The new framework will help us make sure the county continues to live within its means, but still meets the public's high-priority service needs."
He noted that the new framework will complement the county's transition to priority-based budgeting, an approach focused on allocating resources based upon the highest-priority programs and services. The county plans to phase in the priority-based approach over several years.
"Priority-based budgeting will focus on communication; measuring performance; and linking identified priorities, funding, and results so county residents know exactly what they are getting for their taxpayer dollars," explained County Executive Officer David Boesch.
Tuesday's board guidance will allow the county budget team to develop a balanced proposed budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year consistent with the framework. It also will enable implementation of departmental supplemental funding requests within available revenues.
The board annually adopts a proposed budget in June so it has an interim spending plan in place when the new fiscal year begins July 1. Board members hold budget workshops in August before adopting a final budget in September that reflects updated revenue and expenditure estimates.
The multi-year approach is part of a comprehensive effort by the county to make certain its operations can be sustained in the coming years. It is based on the county's Budget and Financial Policy, and the overriding principle is identifying the most reasonable balance between county priorities and available revenues over the next several years. It is intended to:
* Link the distribution of resources to county priorities;
* Achieve greater sustainability by reducing the reliance on carryover fund balances;
* Continue policies that limit future county liabilities; and
* Affirm a balanced business model for direct county-provided services and those provided through private and nonprofit partners.
Underlying the effort is a recognition that county revenue will not increase fast enough to keep pace with projected cost increases.
"The long-term challenge appears manageable, but requires continued prioritization of limited resources to address costs pressures that are continuing to outpace expected revenue growth," explained County Finance and Budget Operations Manager Graham Knaus.
Placer County expects gradual increases in property tax revenue over the next few years and continued annual sales tax funding growth of 3 to 5 percent. Revenue from most other sources is projected to remain flat.
Potential cost increases facing the county include opening and operating the new county jail at the Bill Santucci Justice Center in Roseville. Knaus told board members that the County Executive Office is working with the Sheriff's Office to develop a phased plan for opening the jail.
The multi-year model also calls for bolstering county reserve funds, supporting county infrastructure, and reducing the need to use one-time revenue to fund ongoing operations.
Placer County's goals also include making the budget-development process more transparent so it is easier for the public to provide input. In keeping with that goal, budget documents for the 2013-14 fiscal year are posted on the county website at www.placer.ca.gov. The "County Budget" link in the upper left corner of the home page can be used to view budget documents.
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