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County’s mid-year budget outlook cautiously optimistic

February 16, 2012

Inyo County has been relatively lucky this fiscal year when it comes to state budget cuts. County Administrative Officer Kevin Carunchio said the hardest hit Inyo has seen so far was a half percent decrease in the Inyo County Free Library budget. File photo

Halfway through the fiscal year, and Inyo County seems to be doing better than many California counties – at least according to initial reports from department heads.
“The crystal ball is very murky,” County Administrative Officer Kevin Carunchio said, “the budget is far from being in the red at this juncture. Things are looking pretty good, but there’s still a lot of uncertainty.”
Carunchio said much of that uncertainty comes from instability at the state level.
According to the CAO, a legislative act and stroke of a pen could send the county budget spiraling down, as can mid-year take-backs and deferrals, which he said are always a threat.
The bright side is that county department heads have done a good job of managing their budgets and the county has been able to add $22,770 to contingencies funds, a leap ahead from last year when the county was drawing off of contingencies to balance the budget.
Carunchio also said department heads have received about $7.4 million in state reimbursements for various projects and programs.
“We wouldn’t be getting those payments if departments weren’t staying on top of it,” Carunchio said.
The county is still waiting on $5.6 million in payments from the state.
Carunchio said the county is also managing its budget despite state trigger cuts. In anticipation of the cuts, the District Attorney’s Office did not budget money from Vertical Prosecution grants like it has in the past, so when those grants were cut, it did not impact the department.
He also said that the county was exempt from the $125,000 worth of cuts in juvenile offenders funds.
What did impact the county was a $4,500 cut to libraries.
“That’s not a big hit, about a half percent of the budget,” Carunchio said. “This board’s commitment to libraries has saved it.” Carunchio added that most county-run libraries in the state have been forced to reduce hours or days of operation due to dwindling budgets, but Inyo County’s libraries are going strong.
To ensure that the county meets its financial goals by the end of the fiscal year, Carunchio said departments heads will have to remain proactive and analyze any impacts that may develop from the state level and look at creative ways to work around state impacts.
He said Governor Jerry Brown’s state budget has “more or less” spared counties, but outstanding issues such as the uncertainty of the future of geothermal funds and public safety grants could have an impact at the end of the fiscal year.
For the remainder of the 2011-12 fiscal year, Carunchio said the county needs to “stay cool, be smart and hope things continue to work for us.”
He recommended the county continue its extraordinary budget control policies, such as the authorized position review policy, which requires all new hires, even if the department has budgeted the position, to be reviewed by the board before beginning work.
Department heads are also being asked to provide advanced written notifications of potential revenue loss, minimize purchases and travel and make “timely and realistic budget amendments” if the need arises.

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