Riverside County supervisors approve budget

Spending plan includes job cuts and changes to pension plan

RIVERSIDE, Calif. - Riverside County supervisors formally approved a balanced 2012-13 fiscal year budget, though county officials cautioned that uncertainties ahead will make conservative spending a must.
      "The final 2012/13 budget reflects discretionary revenue that is below  11/12 levels," according to a county Executive Office report. "We cannot rely  on revenue growth to balance this year's budget and, instead, must keep  spending in line with available revenue."
      The Board of Supervisors in June tentatively approved a budget blueprint  that outlined a structurally balanced budget founded on spending cuts,  consolidation and pension reform. More than 130 employees were laid off,  according to county CEO Jay Orr.
      As in previous years, the Executive Office recommended that the board  postpone formal ratification of the budget to September to give county analysts  time to measure the impact of the state's budgetary plans and to adjust data in  response to Assessor-Clerk-Recorder Larry Ward's release of the fiscal year  property tax assessment roll.
      The roll indicated residential and commercial property values countywide  were relatively flat, assuring the county would not suffer a precipitous loss  in property taxes.
      According to the budget report, cuts aimed at closing the state's $16  billion deficit would affect court operations, but most county agencies would  be spared losses.
      In a preface to the budget, Orr noted that the region appeared to be on  track for an "extended recovery" but cautioned that spending challenges in  the form of increased labor costs tied to collective bargaining agreements  approved over the last year would pose "financial challenges" for the county  in the months ahead.
      Documents showed the county would have about $40 million in cash in the  first quarter of the fiscal year, which began July 1. County officials said  planned reductions should move ahead, including a $100,000 spending cut in the  Office of the Registrar of Voters that will result in two positions being  slashed.
      The Department of Code Enforcement and the National Pollutant Discharge  Elimination System office will absorb about a $1.8 million cut, while the  Department of Public Social Services, which receives the bulk of its revenue  from the state and federal governments, is expected to save the county about  $1.8 million via internal reforms and lower-than-anticipated caseloads.
      The Executive Office listed organizational restructuring, departmental  consolidation, jail construction and "business-friendly" reforms as among  county government's priorities in the current fiscal year.
      Appropriations for 2012-13 total $4.67 billion, compared to $5.1 billion  in 2011-12, about a 9 percent drop. Those expenditures are covered through  federal and state "pass-through" funds, county discretionary money and  revenue from special districts.

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