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5/24/19 Imperial Valley Press (El Centro, Cal.) (Pg. Unavail. Online)

2019 WLNR 16041452

Imperial Valley Press (El Centro, CA)

Copyright (c) 2019 Newsbank

May 24, 2019

Section: County

Overtime poses a potential pitfall for budget plan


EL CENTRO - The three-year budget deficit mitigation, plan that prevents Imperial County from filling any current vacancy for three years, concerns some county officials.

Board Supervisor Ray Castillo said he wonders what would happen if the Imperial County Board of Supervisors had to do cutbacks.

The board, in past budgets, have chosen not to fill vacancies for the upcoming year, but not for three years in hopes of ending up with a surplus.

"It's going to create a hardship for many," Castillo said. "I think the biggest impact will be overtime. The staff that is there will have to have more overtime. They will be working six to seven days a week."

If overtime increases by a dramatic amount, the $6 million the county saves by not filling vacancies will decrease.

"That was a concern and is an ongoing concern to reduce overtime," Castillo said. "The board will have to take a hard look at that."

The mitigation plan, which reduces the general fund of 3.5 percent for the 2019-20 fiscal year, 2 percent for 2020-21 and 1.5 percent for the 2021-22 fiscal year, will result in a surplus of $200,783.

County department heads and staff were told the mitigation plan would only succeed if everyone works together.

Castillo said overtime is necessary for certain departments, including public safety and health departments.

"All we can do is hope for the best," Castillo said. "We had to do something. We will monitor it. Castillo said he thinks the struggle for the county began after the influx of funds from solar projects ended in 2015.

"It was doing real well, and we had a surplus," he said. We knew when the projects went away we were going to struggle, so that is what happened."

If not for solar, the county would have had to institute layoffs, he said.

He also said it did not help when the real estate market crashed at about the same time

Included in the mitigation plan is no prior-year encumbrances unless bound by contract, a freeze non-mandated under-hire promotions and a hold on all capital projects that carry a burden on general fund staff and resources.

For the first time, members of the Board of Supervisors will be included in the finance ad hoc committee, he said.

Once the tentative budget is approved, there will be an augmentation hearing where departments can ask for additional staff, sometimes through federal money or grants.

If a department head sees a crucial need for a vacancy to be filled the finance department will review the need and, if it agrees, will forward the request to the executive officer, who will decide whether to forward the request to the supervisors for their decision.

"I think once staff comes back with a recommendation it is mostly a given," Castillo said.