Mid-Year Budget: Conservative Approach

Mono County department heads were present at the last regular meeting of the Board of Supervisors to discuss budgetary issues throughout the county at the mid-year budget review.

Director of Finance Brian Muir provided the overall picture of county finances, which are in good shape, with no glaring problems to address at this point, midway through the fiscal year.

Muir reported that revenues are estimated to exceed projections by around $650k. Both property taxes and transient occupancy tax revenues are coming in above estimates.

While this is good news for the county, Muir urged the supes to take a conservative approach to spending at mid-year. He explained the county should not anticipate double digit increases in the tax roll in the years to come, as reassessments triggered by real estate sales, and construction has cooled.

This could become a serious matter in future years, Muir warned, as salary increases will continue their march forward. County salaries and annual raises are set in existing labor agreements, none of which use county general fund revenue as an index.

Muir predicted the 23-county survey, which produced double digit raises for management personnel last year, will likely produce less dramatic increases thanks to the states current fiscal crisis, which is trimming county finances across the state. Some management salaries used by the survey may not increase at all, Muir said.

Still, the county management compensation policy allows for a cost of living increase in the case that the 23-county survey does not produce one. This has been hovering around 3%.

CAO Wilbrecht predicted that salaries should stabilize in the short term, but changes in the demographic of the public sector work force caused by the imminent retirement of baby boomers will push those salaries higher again.

The two most common topics heard at the mid-year were the unbudgeted cost of management salary increases, and unreliable state funding. Several departments are over budget because of the salary increases created by the 23-county survey. A standard 5% increase had been budgeted, but most management personnel received raises well above 10%.

Many department heads expressed concern over next years budget, where state funding is anything but certain. State funding versus costs in numerous county departments appears increasingly divergent, observed Assistant CAO Tom Wallace.

After hearing from the department heads, the Supervisors considered some of the policy items that were carried over from last years budget process. Since the meeting had run past 5:00, the supes pushed the decisions on policy items to their next scheduled meeting on March 4.


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