RIVERSIDE (CNS) – The Board of Supervisors Tuesday signed off on a report indicating that Riverside County government coffers are swelling beyond what officials anticipated in the current fiscal year, setting the stage for lighter loads on the board in preparation for 2022-23 budget hearings.
In a 5-0 vote without comment, the supervisors received and filed the third-quarter budget update and authorized the start of budget hearings on June 13.
“Overall, projected discretionary revenue estimates are up $50 million from budget projections,” according to the Executive Office’s 38-page report.
Discretionary revenue was originally expected to top out at $921 million, but will likely be about $971 million by June 30, when the 2021-22 fiscal year ends, the report stated.
Executive Office staff attributed the rise to higher motor vehicle in lieu of property tax revenue, as well as higher sales and use tax receipts — $11 million over the original estimate — increased documentary transfer tax streams and better-than-expected spillover savings from the previous fiscal year.
One of the brightest spots in the budget report, as it was during the midyear update, was in Proposition 172 public safety sales tax income, which is predicted to reach $260 million, or $27 million more than initial budget projections, according to the EO.
The county reserve pool is also expanding well in excess of what had been predicted, with projections now that it will plateau at $368 million by the end of the current fiscal year. The pool held roughly $231 million at the beginning of 2021-22.
There was no reference in the report to the enormous revenue boosts that the county has enjoyed in the form of federal outlays under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief & Economic Security Act of 2020 and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which to date have resulted in almost $800 million in additional funds for a variety of appropriations.
The board was able to avoid budget cuts and payroll reductions, in part because of the taxpayer-backed infusions in the previous and current fiscal years.
No serious revenue shortfalls are on the horizon.
According to the report, the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office, Sheriff’s Department and Fire Department all appear to be settling out the fiscal year in the black. However, fire officials requested and were granted almost a quarter-million dollars in additional contingency appropriations because of expenses tied to a winter fire in Thermal that required extensive mop-up.
The Department of Animal Services, which has been struggling to achieve a balanced budget for nearly a decade, will be re-prioritizing funds internally to keep from operating in the red for the remainder of 2021-22, according to the report.
Hearings on the proposed 2022-23 budget are only slated to last two days, though the board may expand the schedule if necessary. The tentative budget has not yet been published.
Under state law, the county must have a general spending plan in place by June 30.
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