As County of Marin staff members prepare to hold public budget hearings later this month, its finance team said the County is on solid financial ground because of past reductions and an improving economy. That is the key message to be delivered by County staffers June 3 as they present the proposed budget for 2014-15 and a proposed plan for 2015-16.
“As we return to fiscal stability, we must also continue to stay ahead of the curve by responding to emerging community needs, understanding major trends, and encouraging a culture of innovation,” Board President Kate Sears said. “As we look ahead, to remain in balance, any new ongoing spending will need to be offset with reduced spending in other areas or with increased ongoing revenue sources.”
Heading into the County’s first two-year budget, economic stability and continued fiscal innovation will be the dominant themes. For the first time in five years, theCounty is not considering service reductions. Between 2008 and 2013, the County reduced more than $30 million in annual spending and cut its workforce by more than 200 positions, or 11 percent, in response to the economic downturn.
County Administrator Matthew Hymel said the new budget maintains services and includes $14 million to pay down retiree liabilities beyond required payments. In the past year, the County reduced its unfunded retiree liabilities by $98 million, leading all three independent bond rating agencies to give Marin County the highest rating of AAA.
“As the economy improves, we need to continue to be aggressive on paying down our long-term retiree liabilities,” Hymel said.
The fiscal year 2014-15 Proposed General Fund budget, the primary fund for most programs and services, is $392.9 million, a 5.7 percent increase versus the prior year. The figure includes $8 million in one-time investments for several high priority needs, including $4 million for additional road and bridge improvements, $500,000 for capital improvements for a more permanent winter shelter for the homeless, and $125,000 for drought relief efforts – in particular ensuring adequate water supply for Marin’s farms and dairies.
Hymel introduced the proposal for a two-year budget earlier this year to encourage longer-term planning and to save staff work hours. The proposed budget includes line-item detail for both years, resulting in a more streamlined process one year from now.
“This will allow us to focus more effort on planning and improving our performance management program,” Hymel said.
Deputy County Administrator Dan Eilerman added, “Greater financial stability at the federal and particularly the state level has resulted in more predictable revenues and creates an opportunity for longer-term budget planning.”
The overall objective of the budget is to achieve the shared goal of making Marin safer, healthier and more sustainable.
Budget hearings for formal approval of the 2014-15 County Budget and 2015-16 Plan are scheduled for June 16 and June 18 in the Board’s Chambers beginning at 9 a.m.Questions or suggestions about the budget can be emailed to email@example.com.