The Placer County Board of Supervisors took an important step recently to build momentum behind a new, innovative effort to identify and fund high-priority infrastructure projects.
At the end of two days of budget workshops, board members directed staff Friday to set aside $2.2 million for infrastructure funding. The decision will help jump start a drive approved by the board July 10 to develop a prioritized, comprehensive county infrastructure funding plan. At that meeting, board members authorized County Executive Officer David Boesch to establish a County Infrastructure Investment Committee to develop criteria for use in drafting the plan.
Friday’s decision was made during a discussion of two potential options for $4.2 million in one-time discretionary General Fund revenue that had not been allocated yet. One option called for putting all of the unallocated revenue into the county General Fund Reserve and the other proposed putting roughly half in the reserve fund and setting aside the remaining $2.2 million for one-time infrastructure priorities. Informally, board members approved the latter option.
“As you know, over the last six years or so our investment in infrastructure has declined,” Chief Assistant CEO Holly Heinzen told the board, emphasizing the need to rebalance operational and infrastructure funding. “We think, to be sustainable, we need to continue our infrastructure investments to ensure that they don’t erode and that the investments we make continue to serve the county for many, many years.”
The infrastructure funding plan will:
- Take a comprehensive look at many kinds of projects, including information technology, fire facilities and equipment, roads, bridges, buildings, open space, sewer and garbage facilities, and utilities needed to support county facilities;
- Identify high-priority projects, including those with economic development benefits to the community; and
- Be coordinated with a five-year budget strategy being implemented by the county to ensure that revenues and costs remain balanced while critical countywide priorities are met.
Friday’s board action is consistent with the five-year budget strategy, which calls for bolstering county reserves with up to 50 percent of unanticipated unspent funds carried over from one fiscal year to the next.
Underlying work on the budget strategy is recognition that the county’s post-recession revenue outlook is improving, but not fast enough to keep pace with likely cost increases absent further action.
“Frankly, we think that it’s an incredibly important tool for us not only to do our day-to-day business of managing the county budget and administering county resources, but in looking at these next five to 10 years and how we prioritize our resources,” Heinzen said.
The strategy’s goals include:
- Preserving the county’s fiscal health in a rebenching economy;
- Maximizing the county’s limited resources to most effectively meet public service needs;
- Making sure board priorities are met;
- Positioning the county to withstand the next economic downturn; and
- Reducing the use of one-time revenues to fund ongoing operations.
The county continued to invest in infrastructure projects during the recession years, but had to defer some projects.
A proposed $690.1 million budget adopted by the board June 5 included a $4.5 million contribution of discretionary General Fund revenue to the Capital Projects Fund, down dramatically from the $18.7 million contribution in the 2007-08 budget.
The $2.2 million is on top of the $4.5 million and is part of a board effort to strengthen infrastructure as the county gradually emerges from the economic downtown.
The infrastructure funding plan’s goals include identifying infrastructure projects that will promote economic development in such areas as the Sunset Industrial Area between Rocklin, Roseville and Lincoln and the Placer County Government Center in North Auburn, a complex commonly known as the DeWitt Center.
The county already has separate infrastructure plans in place for several types of projects, including facilities, public works, information technology and fire protection.
Last year, for example, the board received an update on a highly successful Comprehensive Facilities Master Plan created by the Facility Services Department in 1993. Since the plan was adopted, the county has invested about $250 million on new buildings that were needed to replace outdated facilities, accommodate service needs created by population growth and provide more county facilities in the South Placer population centers.
Last week’s budget workshops set the stage for development of a final county budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year.
The board adopted a proposed budget June 5 so Placer County had a spending plan in place when the fiscal year began July 1.
The board is scheduled to hold a public hearing on a proposed final budget Sept. 11 and adopt a final budget Sept. 25. The two-phase approach allows the county to wait until September to adopt a final budget that includes updated revenue and expenditure estimates.
PowerPoint presentations from the budget workshops are available on the county’s website by clicking this link: PRESENTATIONS.