SLO County’s disappearing budget surplus

May 18, 2015

Dan BuckshiBy JOSH FRIEDMAN

Less than six months after the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors awarded extra pay to all employees after staff claimed a $30 million budget surplus, the county is running in a deficit.

The county is currently facing a budget gap of nearly $9 million, due largely to mishandling of employee pay, according to a staff report for Tuesday’s board of supervisors meeting. As a result, the county will likely cut some services.

In December, the board unanimously approved one-time payments of $1,000 to all full-time employees and prorated payments to part-time employees. The county described the payments as offsets to rising health care costs. In all, the payments total more than $2.4 million.

On Tuesday, the board of supervisors is scheduled to conduct its third quarter budget review for the 2014-2015 fiscal year. A county staff report for the budget hearing states that approximately $8.8 million in unbudgeted expenses will come due by year’s end.

Of the $8.8 million in unforeseen expenses, approximately $7.4 million is attributed to the one-time payments and prevailing wage adjustments for county employees.

County administrators say they plan to account for $7.4 million of the unbudgeted expenses through expenditure savings. That entails leaving some county staff positions vacant and reducing services and supplies.

Unanticipated revenue will also help make up the difference. The county expects to raise $878,513 in unanticipated revenue, according to the staff report.

Additionally, staff is recommending that the board transfer $494,295 from general fund contingencies to offset the remaining unbudgeted expenses. Doing so requires at least a four-fifths vote, though.

Before the board approved the one-time payments for employees, Human Resources Director Tami Douglas-Schatz said county departments had built up savings which led to the $30 million budget surplus. Those monies could be passed to employees, she said.

Critics questioned the use of the funds, as well as the legality of making one-time payments to county employees. The California Constitution prohibits governments from dispersing money if there is no accompanying public benefit.

It is forbidden for state, county or city governments to gift public funds, except to orphans, abandoned children, the blind, the handicapped, families with a disabled unemployable father and to institutions serving them, according to Article XVI, Section 6 of the California Constitution.

A week after awarding county employees raises, the supervisors granted themselves salary increases of about $4,000 in yearly pay. The board approved its own raises on a 4-1 vote, with Supervisor Debbie Arnold dissenting.

The vote on the raises for employees and the vote on the raises for board members took place prior to Supervisor Lynn Compton taking office.


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Otis

Great report, Josh Friedman. Here is another example of the CoastNews leadership in insightful critical journalism.


It all begs the question where is the “accountability” for this excess of spending?


kayaknut

Where is accountability? Simply there isn’t any because they don’t care, it’s not their money, and there are no consequences for their actions, so why should they care. If all these big payouts to existing officials came of someones budget maybe they would actually care.


sloaim

My question is this? If the city is running out of money, then why is the city manager and city attorney up for a raise? Which council will have to approve and likely will. Also, why is the city letting go of top employees, that are doing there job, and opening up a process that will likely involve paying more money to someone new?


achillesheal

Sounds like we need a tax increase to get this situation squared away.


Maybe the fools will actually vote to approve it themselves.


r0y

WHO HAS BEEN FIRED?


Bueller?


Bueller…?


Bueller … … …?


Yeah, thought so. Confiscate from the productive citizens, give it away to the non-producing ones, then realize you cannot count. Keep your job: win.


Slowerfaster

The confiscation has been going from the working ( no longer ‘middle’ ) class to the 1% and the CEO’s that game the tax system to reward themselves in extreme excess.They do it by the BILLION$ by writing off payments on their borrowing against taxable earnings.


In the USA, this amounts to $725 Billion, or 5% of Gross Domestic Product. This is more than all combined payments for ‘welfare’ or basic assistance to the poor and needy.

Guess where this WELFARE TO THE RICH comes from ? Not from the poor and needy.

It’s going FROM the working class that can’t afford high priced lawyers, lobbyists, and politicians right into the pockets of the rich and lazy.


achillesheal

It seems to me that government confiscated money from all taxpayers and gave it to government employees to offse their rising health care costs (which are attributable to a government program). Obviously no concern for the rest of the taxpayers who have rising health care costs.


I think the 1%’s have clean hands on this scam.


kayaknut

You left out the poor and lazy. You talk about the 1% but completely pass by the 60% who pay no taxes at all, both rich and poor, leaving the 40% who do pay taxes to support the rest.


mbbizpro

Your “facts” just to jive. The top 10% of wage earners pay 68% of the Federal Taxes. The top 20% of wage earners pay 84% of the Federal Taxes. The Top 1% pay. The Top 1 % pays more than the bottom 90%. Confiscating wealth is not the answer. Want to make more money. Get a good education, work hard, learn new skills, get a better job, work harder, seek an employee that values your skills, learn more skills, work harder.


mbbizpro

Seek and employer.


achillesheal

Isn’t $725 Billion the approximate amount of the “stimulus package”, which was nothing more than a cash gift to democrat donors to fund all of their pet projects?


r0y

Welfare to the rich like the $3 TRILLION dollars the Federal Reserve gave to itself a couple years ago (2012’s QE 1 through QE 3)? Not to mention the QE infinity. Heck, if they weren’t busted over creating 3 trillion out of nothing, then why stop there? (thankfully, more than 80% of all that newly-digitally-created money is sitting there, with zero velocity or else we’d be in a whole different world of pain).


Sure, let’s be angry at the “rich” who are “stealing” their own money BACK from the government that took most of it in the first place. Do the rich TAKE the money from the poor? Or do they provide goods & services for the money? The only entity I see that take my money is the government.


Maybe it is the whole “no one said anything, no one gives a crap” mentality that government strives for that enabled the privately-held bank to create money and inject it into the monetary system that enables the low-level / low-life folks in local government to do the same? I mean, what was the outcry for FLAT OUT STEALING FROM THE PUBLIC TREASURY – which is ILLEGAL – when they did it here in SLO? Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero. Sure, some “crazy radicals” whined and moaned about it on the only real source of news in the county (plug for CCN), but other than that: what came of it?


Better question to ask is: what will be the next grand larceny?


achillesheal

The Federal Reserve, which is responsible for all of the QE’s is not a privately held bank. It was established by an act of Congress, derives its authority from Congress and is only independent in that its policies do not need to be approved by Congress.


Its chairman and governors are all appointed by the President and confimed by Congress.


It is the government.


moderator

sorry, it is a consortium of private banks that are organized to do a job for the government (that is us believe it or not) because JPmorgan refused to be the bank of last resort 1913. the best collection of conspiracy theories are kept in the library of the NY branch,the best book about the one hunder year old fed is Grieder’s” Secrets of the Temple” https://books.google.com/books?id=JxSU5I58L-wC

FDR’s guy my favorite mormon

http://www.federalreservehistory.org/People/DetailView/75


achillesheal
don the beachcomber

Debbie Peterson helped resolve the fiscal mismanagement at the Sanitation District, saving over $1 million per year. Perhaps she can solve this mess if she’s elected Third District Supervisor.


Mike Byrd

Thinking exactly the same thing. Governance before politics.


Perspicacious

Sounds like state budget surplus news as of late. Want to bet CA will go on a spending spree and be right back in the red by the end of the year? And which party controls this state?


SloTownMan

Pukes ?


Pelican1

A classic example of robbing Peter to pay Paul. Will they never learn?


SloTownMan

The real question is WILL WE EVER LEARN?????????


Perspicacious

The real answer is NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Actually, I HAVE learned but no one else has. :)


achillesheal

It’s monopoly money to them. They don’t need to learn because they don’t care. We need to learn that every politician from Obama to Boehner to Hillary to whatever fools are running this town is lower than pond scum and should be treated accordingly.


slojustice

They will learn when they start losing elections. Unfortunately, the electorate would rather keep electing crappy public servants. Now I don’t know about Compton, but Debbie Arnold is the only supervisor who seems to care about her constituents. The rest of them should be fired!


abigchocoholic

A 39 million dollar math error? Who does the books over there a third grader?


Government is the only business where a budget surplus is a signal to freely and whimsically spend more.


It’s now widely known that government is the best place to work in America. They work half as hard as private America so it’s low stress, the pay is better, the hours are 9-5, health care is taken care of and there’s tremendous job security. Try and get that deal in any small private business.


The only negative thing is that you have to put up with a disrespectful public–but then again so do private businesses (they just don’t complain about it because they know the consumer can go elsewhere).


r0y

3rd grader? No, worse: unionized public employees who seem unable to be fired no matter how utterly incompetent they prove to be time and time again.


Perspicacious

Waitjustaminute. If the one time payments were 2.4 mil, how can that account for 7.4 mil of the deficit? I think the little phrase “prevailing wage adjustment” explains it, yet the one-time payments get all the blame and media play.