Depending on how you look at things, Inyo County could be a total of $6.3 million in the hole in what the County Administrator called a “structural deficit” when he reported to the Board on Tuesday.
CAO Kevin Carunchio said the $6.3 million could be a “hard number”. He added that department revenues could also be overstated, which would make the deficit even bigger. The other fact is what’s called the fund balance, which means how much is left over from last fiscal year that could offset this year’s deficit. That number could be as high as $3 million or $4 million, which brings things back to the $2 million shortfall created by raises.
Carunchio also had heard that some people thought he might want to pay down the deficit with the solar deal in the works with the Department of Water and Power which was $4.5 million. Said Caruncho, “To say we were hanging our hat on the solar revenue is complete and utter nonsense.”
He then went to the Library and said the Director was asked to present an operations plan by March of this year. It did not come in. Carunchio said, “To suggest the Board or CAO is balancing the budget on the back of the Library is not right.” He said the Library lost 7% of its budget this year not 27%. However, other statistics show that the Library staff has declined by 9 people out of 16 in the past five years. (See letter to the editor for more.)
Carunchio said relying on the fund balance to balance this year’s budget is “a crap shoot and risk.” He said the following fiscal year could be even tougher. There was some discussion of all departments taking a cut for the $6.3 million structural deficit. He did not recommend the use of reserves.
From here on, Carunchio said there will be department meetings and budget workshops toward balancing of the budget. Departments will look at how much they would have to cut in order to share in the deficit whether it be $1.8 million, $2.3 million or $6.3 million.
Jeff Griffiths said once the chronic deficit is cleared up, the County could move toward positive things like economic development and other forward-thinking projects. Linda Arcularius said she would count on $1 million less in the usual $4 million fund balance and wold not plan to totally eliminate the structural deficit this year.
CAO Carunchio finally said, “I know all of this is not great news.”