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5/22/19 Imperial Valley Press (El Centro, Cal.) (Pg. Unavail. Online)

2019 WLNR 15774758 Imperial Valley Press (El Centro, CA)

Copyright (c) 2019 Newsbank

May 22, 2019

Section: Local

Supervisors approve 3-year plan for budget deficit


EL CENTRO - While the Imperial County Board of Supervisors Tuesday morning approved a three-year budget deficit mitigation plan, a better and more aggressive plan was wanted.

The plan covers fiscal years 2019-20, 2020-21 and 2021-22 and will phase-in a 7 percent spending reduction for general fund departments.

During this time, management will be allowed an opportunity to identify how best to reduce costs within their department, improve efficiency and identify other revenue sources such as grants, fees and contributions from other agencies.

In year one, the county will not fund or fill current vacant positions to save $6 million. This will take effect immediately.

Deputy County Executive Officer Mayra Widmann also proposed reducing the general fund contingency allocation to the last two years' cost average to save $800,000.

Reducing out-of-town travel by 20 percent will save $200,000, and reducing the professional services by 5 percent will result in another $468,000 going in the general fund

She also proposed withholding 2019-20 augmentation that would have any impact to the general fund. District Supervisor Jesus Eduardo Escobar said there are a couple of things that are worrisome.

He said at the end of the three-year plan there would only be $4.2 million added to the general fund, not the $30 to $40 million a county with 180,000 people should have.

He also found having a rainy day fund of only $200,000 troubling as a single emergency would wipe it would instantly.

"We need to take it to another level," he said. In the last five years the county has lost $32.8 million.

"We can't continue down this path," he said before asking about a bond possibility.

The hiring freeze, supervisors agreed should not include essential positions like police or medical professionals.

"In three years we are going to (come to) our employees and tell them we are broke," Escobar said.

"This plan is not aggressive enough to put us over the hump."Widmann said the plan is just a start.

Escobar said he believes the hiring freeze might be able to help in the short-term.

"It's a Band-Aid on a hemorrhage," he said.

Supervisor Ray Castillo proposed forming an ad hoc committee to look into revenue streams.

Supervisor Luis Plancarte said the county supervisors should ask its employees to inform them on ways they see to reduce waste and to operate more efficiently.

Supervisor Mike Kelley said there are several ways to reduce expenses, but the county's top priority is to provide services to the communities it serves.

Public safety and law enforcement are basic essentials.

Imperial County Undersheriff Fred Miramontes said there are already 14 deputy positions that have been unfunded and another 10 are or will become vacant.

If these 10 positions are not filled, overtime for the sheriff's office will get out of control. These 10 positions include six deputies and two sergeants.

"With 10 more it's going to bleed," he said. Chairman Ryan Kelley proposed not having a mandate that no employee can be hired to fill a vacant position if proper steps are followed.

If the finance committee decides a position needs to be filled it would be forwarded to the county executive officer. If it was approved at that level the request would be sent to the supervisors for the final decision.

Supervisors liked Kelley's idea.