The Mono County Board of Supervisors held their annual budget hearings this week in Bridgeport and Mammoth Lakes. Over the course of three days, the Supervisors considered the expenses of each county department, and on Wednesday made preliminary decisions on the majority of special funding requests.
Unlike many municipalities in the state, Mono County is not hurting financially. In the midst of statewide cutbacks this fiscal year, Mono County will once again expand service, hire more personnel, and invest in considerable infrastructure needs.
Although county finances are stable, Supervisors exercised some degree of caution by warning several department heads of the financial limits ahead – limits the county seems to be approaching rapidly.
According to the budget ink, increases in department budgets average 16% greater than actual expenses from last fiscal year. But Finance Director Brian Muir explained that figure reflects the county’s conservative approach to the budget which overestimates expenses, and underestimates revenues.
The result, Muir said, is that the budget will balance at the end of the fiscal year. Although a direct comparison of revenues and expenditures reveals a deficit, Muir said at year’s end, it will be close to even.
In addition to increasing department expenses, the board also approved funding for numerous special items, also known as policy items. Those items include funding for many local non-profits, over $1 million on new county vehicles, and $412,000 to begin implementation of new property tax software. Additionally, the board approved increased annual expenses of over $600,000 per year for additional human resources in the form of new employees and the reclassification of existing employees.
Separate from those policy items is by far the largest item before the Supervisors this year, which is the reorganization of the Public Works Department. In an effort to increase the department’s service potential in both the road department and facilities maintenance, the board is considering adding $1 million per year to the county budget in the form of new employees. The board wanted more time to study the proposal, and deferred their decision until the next meeting on September 2nd.
Also to be discussed September 2nd will be a long list of Capital Improvement Projects that have been identified in the recent Capital Facilities Study. Whether the Supervisors will add some of those projects to the existing policy items or defer the decision until another Needs Assessment Study is completed (also approved for $50,000 funding) remains to be seen.