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6/20/19 Imperial Valley Press (El Centro, Cal.) (Pg. Unavail. Online)

2019 WLNR 18971374

Imperial Valley Press (El Centro, CA)

Copyright (c) 2019 Newsbank

June 20, 2019

Section: County

Next budget will require county to make tough choices


EL CENTRO - When the Imperial County Board of Supervisors receives the numbers next week to create the 2019-20 budget, some difficult decisions will have to be made, which likely includes cuts. Supervisor Jesus Eduardo Escobar said projected cuts are on the table as is almost everything else.

"We need to be a lot more aggressive," Escobar said during Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting

Supervisor Mike Kelley said the ultimate decisions regarding the budget will be made by the supervisors, and Escobar agreed, but said they cannot go in blind, without adequate information.

"We need to fully understand the decisions we are making," he said. "We can't continue to do business as is."

Kelley and Escobar agreed department heads have to be included in the discussions on what cuts have to be made.

One future expense over which the county has no control is the increase of the minimum wage, which will go up to $13 for organizations with 26 employees or more in 2020 and up to $12 for employers with 25 workers or fewer.

Board Chairman Ryan Kelley said the creation of the budget this year will be different than previous years

"There will be more scrutiny," he said. "If it's not ready for prime time, it is not going to (be well received)."

He said this year's budget will not be done in drafts with it coming to them for approval after Labor Day.

Escobar wanted to know more about the loss of $10 million to $11 million in the general fund for the current fiscal year and wanted to know how the county would cover it.

"It is a finite (number)," he said. "Those finite numbers will end up zero."

The three-year mitigation plan to save the county $4.2 million freezing hiring for three years might not be doable.

Implementing an across-the-board chopping block regardless of the department makes no sense, especially when considering public safety.

What he does not want to happen is telling employees in three years that the county is broke.

"This is not going to be simple," Escobar said. "The proposed cuts will not come close to getting us to an equilibrium.

"That is a moving target," he said. "That's a problem. We need to look at hard tables."

He took exception to County Deputy Officer Mayra Widmann using the words status quo in her presentation to the supervisors, words that he considers a "mortal sin."

"We can't afford to operate at a status quo," he said.

He also wondered why the county has yet to adjust its fees.

"Every day we don't adjust our fees we are losing money, and we can't afford to lose money," he said. Employees, he said, need to be empowered to tell county officials and supervisors how to be better with finances.

He also said nothing should be left off the table.

"If it's legally possible, make it happen," he said. "If it's legal, we have to push it."