Ahead of the statutory deadline to submit its current operating budget to the state, the Imperial County Board of Supervisors adopted a $655.8 million budget, which represented a 1.15 percent increase in total costs over the previous year.
Last year’s approved final budget was $648.3 million, passed Sept. 22, 2020.
A major change this year was the county shifting the costs of one of its largest and most costly departments — social services — from the general fund, the chief operating account, to its special revenue fund for dedicated state and federal funding streams.
The fiscal 2021-2022 general fund came in at $119.3 million, a 47.4 percent decrease from last year’s general fund of $226.8 million.
“This budget is a testament to the hard work by our county administration and every single one of our over 2,400 dedicated employees of the county of Imperial,” stated Chairman of the Imperial County Board of Supervisors, Michael W. Kelley, in a press release marking the board’s unanimous approval on Tuesday, Sept. 21. “This past year and a half has made the county more resilient to adversity and the manner in which we respond. This budget makes the necessary investments and allows the county of Imperial to be guided towards a brighter future for all those that live and work in our Imperial County.”
The current fiscal year started July 1.
County officials are considering are celebrating what amounts to $10 million in savings from the general fund budget proposed earlier in the summer.
To save $10 million, the county started by funding its vacant positions at only 60 percent, saving the county $2.1 million. The 60 percent provides some cushion for departments to hire staff for vacant positions, but also limiting how much funding is reserved for positions that may not be filled.
The Early Retirement Incentive Program was able to save the county $1 million by offering county staff who were close to retirement bonuses for choosing to move forward with retirement.
Reclassifying the Department of Social Services to special revenues saved the county $4 million by clearly defining their county funds and giving them control over them. Social Services receives most of its funds from the state and federal government, according to Mayra Widmann, deputy county executive officer-budget and fiscal, and so the department requires less administration from the county.
A further $2 million were saved by aligning overhead charges to current staffing and expense levels, taking the pressure off the county to fill the vacant positions, and $1 million by paying off the 1997 Pension Obligation Bond.
“The adopted budget reflects the needs of the community and makes investments into critical areas such as public assistance, health and sanitation, public protection, and county departments to ensure the necessary resources are in place to serve the people of Imperial County,” according to a county press release.
The 2021-22 spending plan will allocate $202.1 million to public assistance, $131.7 million to health and sanitation, $126.3 million to public protection, $31.2 million to general government, $17.8 million to public ways and facilities, $1.91 million to education, and $800,000 to parks and recreation, according to the county.
During the August budget hearings, the county made augmentations to the budget, including funding toward the District Attorney’s Office, Fire Protection, Agricultural Commissioner’s Office, the Public Administrator’s Indigent Burial Program, and various employee reclassifications.