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County Reduces Costs to Help Balance Budget

August 09, 2010

An ongoing drive to reduce expenditures and boost revenue allowed Placer County to end last fiscal year with an end-of-the-year fund balance of approximately $31 million that will be used to help balance the county’s 2010-11 budget.

This is approximately $3.5 million more than the county had already targeted as mandatory for the 2010-11 budget.

About $15 million of the year-end savings for 2009-10 were due to reduced spending on services and supplies. Another $8 million were salary savings achieved largely through a hiring freeze and 12 unpaid furlough days that most employees agreed to accept last fiscal year.

The savings are a critical part of Placer County’s strategy for keeping its 2010-11 budget balanced despite revenue losses created by the nation’s economic slowdown and state budget crisis. The savings from one year create a carryover balance that is used as a starting point for the following year’s budget.

On Tuesday, the Placer County Board of Supervisors will receive a report from County Executive Officer Thomas M. Miller detailing how successful the county’s budget-balancing efforts were during 2009-10.

Over the last few years, the Board of Supervisors, County Executive Office and county departments have worked hard to cut costs, find new revenue sources and make process improvements that allow the county to balance its budgets while preserving vital public services and protecting employees from layoffs.

“Counties statewide continue to experience severe budget shortfalls and sagging revenues,” CEO Miller says in his report to the board, noting that several counties in the region have laid off large numbers of employees.

“Placer County has found it necessary to lay off only about 14 employees over the last 2 ½ years, and those layoffs were due to reduced workloads caused by the construction industry slowdown.”

In his report, he details several examples of how Placer County cut costs, increased revenue or introduced process improvements that maximized the use of county resources during the 2009-10 fiscal year:

· Placer County saved more than $1 million through the efforts of many departments to reduce the number of vehicles they have and how many miles employees drive.

· The Health and Human Services Department saved money by not filling 8 percent of its funded positions, cut cell phone expenses by 50 percent by deactivating some phones and switching to a more cost-effective cell phone plan and reduced travel and transportation expenses by 60 percent.

· Health and Human Services also worked hard to augment funding for CalWORKs and food stamps for the most-needy county residents.

· Public Works has maximized revenue from grants and federal and state reimbursements for road and bridge projects. It estimates revenue from those sources will exceed $60 million during 2010-11.

· The County Clerk-Recorder’s Office saved $267,000 by using less expensive printing materials and printing fewer ballot pages for the June 8 statewide primary election.

The report commends the Sheriff’s Office, Probation Department and District Attorney’s Office for:

· Using car pooling to reduce reimbursement costs for the use of personal vehicles by 44 percent;

· Reducing the number of cell phones they use by 58 percent by developing a check-out system for phones; and

· Reducing overtime pay by relying more on volunteer and extra-help staff.

“The list of examples cited in the report is not comprehensive, but clearly demonstrates how well departments have worked with the board and county budget team to reduce expenses and increase our revenue stream,” CEO Miller said. “Working together, we have been able to mitigate the impacts of the economic downturn and avoid resorting to the draconian measures seen in some jurisdictions.”

Tuesday’s meeting will take place at 9 a.m. in the County Administrative Center, 175 Fulweiler Ave. in Auburn. The report on the county’s cost-cutting and revenue-increasing efforts is scheduled for discussion at 9:45 a.m.

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