By Deb Murphy
The coolest thing about budget season in Inyo County is waiting to see what 70’s rock lyric County Administrative Officer Kevin Carunchio comes up with for the intro and general theme of the massive document.
This year it was The Grateful Dead’s Robert Hunter’s Easy Wind: “I been chippin’ them rocks from dawn till doom….if I live five years I gonna bust my back, yes I will.” Budget translation: We made it through this year, but it’s not going to get any easier.
The budget is balanced, thanks to General Fund savings (the difference between estimated expenses and income which usually comes out on the plus side). Funds have been put aside for purchase of the landfill sites. The County will be able to absorb this year’s CalPERS unfunded liabilities payment of $1.2 million. The over-simplified explanation: The state’s retirement fund imploded along with the stock market and housing bust in 2008 so now entities that have paid into the fund have to make up for the investment losses. Money has also been set aside toward an upgrade of Inyo’s antiquated voting system and five new positions have been added.
Those five new positions basically are positions that disappeared during the 2014-15 fiscal year with the Voluntary Separation Incentive Plan, leaving holes in their respective departments. Included are a trainee/tech in the Environmental health Department, a librarian to help eliminate spot closures of area libraries; an auditor/assessor position; a public guardian and additional staff for the Clerk/Recorder’s office.
On the revenue side, the County anticipates an increase of $447,398 from various sources but that’s offset by an $800,000 loss in Transient Occupancy Taxes due to the continued closure at Furnace Creek, under repairs from last year’s mud disaster.
Which brings us to the bad news. The General Funding savings used to maintain a balanced budget is finite—probably related to the “in five years, I’m gonna bust my back” lyric.
The unfunded liability payments will go on for years, fluctuating with the current stock market, so hope the DOW doesn’t drown before it’s paid off.
The current healthcare and entitlement climate in Washington could pull the rug out from under Health and Human Services.
So, we’ll end this short piece the way we started: “She gotta get the getting’ tonight; She gotta get the getting while the getting’s is right.” Joe Ely, She Gotta Get the Gettin’
For the full 700-plus page budget, check the County’s website.