All of the government agencies in Inyo-Mono have budget problems. The recession hurt revenue and continues to hurt. In Mammoth’s case it was also the big lawsuit pay-off. Problems common to all are drops in property taxes and other taxes. More than one local government has talked about a “structural deficit” that means ongoing budget shortfalls. Some of the governments have come together in Inyo County’s Service Redesign effort – all in search of ways for services to cost less.
In fact, Mono County Administrator Jim Leddy attended a recent Inyo Supervisors’ meeting when team leaders from the Service Redesign work offered their reports. News had earlier gone public that Mono County suffers from a structural deficit. As CAO Leddy put it, “Our expenses on an annual basis outpace our revenue.” Mono Supervisors took a sobering look at their budget in February and expect an update April 15th.
Mono County officials asked all departments to reduce their part of the General Fund by 5%. Leddy said that some did and some didn’t. The one-time savings did add up to nearly $740,000. The potential shortfall next fiscal year could reach $4.7 million. Leddy and others are taking steps now to reduce the gap. He said, “We will try not to reduce services or make lay-offs.”
The main problems for Mono County, as with other governments, is a drop in property taxes due to a negative real estate market, high labor costs, and health care and pension cost increases. State and federal mandates cost more and so do other things like fuel. The County’s reserve fund went from $6 million in 2008 to $1.7 million. There has been no real recovery from the hard recession.
Leddy said he and Finance Director Leslie Chapman are focused on this fiscal year and next fiscal year’s budget with regular check-ins. The next one will take place April 15th. Just as Inyo County, the City of Bishop and federal agencies here are doing, Mono County is “looking at services,” said Leddy, “and trying to re-invent how County government provides services.”
As for Inyo County’s Service Redesign work, Leddy said he and eight others teamed up to share service ideas. He said there may be some interfacing with Public Works to save money. Leddy said the meetings sparked ideas and Mono is doing some re-design for itself for the next 5 to 10 years.
Mono officials will negotiate with employees over potential unpaid time off, attrition on top of general service redesign. In February, Leddy and Chapman called on all employees to take three months to “build a new Mono County.”