County releases balanced budget

Orange County has released its recommended budget for the upcoming fiscal year, with officials highlighting the document's balance and, well, lack of excitement.

After weathering several years of financial volatility since 2008, county Chief Financial Officer Frank Kim said in a media briefing Monday that "the county is getting back to what it normally does," funding existing programs and investing in new initiatives — though the recommended budget is still a jumping-off point allowing for probable changes throughout the year.

Among those new initiatives is the implementation of Laura's Law, which supervisors approved Tuesday. The law allows court-ordered treatment of mentally ill adults.

Additionally, the proposed fiscal year 2014-15 budget includes $3.6 million for the operation of two potential year-round homeless shelters.

The recommended budget, which will be up for discussion in public hearings June 10 and 11, reflects a 1% increase over the current year's budget, totaling about $5.4 billion.

Of that, about 12.5%, or $672 million, is discretionary funding, meaning that it's not already tied up in state or federally mandated programs.

That, officials said, is the pool that's generally the focus of most debate at the county level. It's projected to grow by $49.8 million over the current fiscal year.

The document reflects a projected 2% increase in property tax revenues, as well as a 3% bump in sales tax revenue for public safety, which allowed for a 2% increase in spending for general fund departments.

It allows for 17,719 jobs, an increase of 91 over this year — the bulk of which were included as part of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Finally, the budget accounts for a $5-million payment to the state as a result of a lawsuit the county lost over a disputed chunk of vehicle license fee revenue.

Although Kim and Michelle Aguirre, director of the county budget office, stressed that the money is in reserves, they said the $5 million is the first in a series of five escalating payments totaling $150 million.

Officials said those payments will be among the biggest hurdles to maintaining a balanced budget in coming years.

To read the budget, or for more information, go to

County staff members will host a public budget preview at 8 a.m. June 10 in the Hall of Administration's Planning Commission Hearing Room at 333 W. Santa Ana Blvd., Santa Ana.

The preview will be followed by a public hearing before the Board of Supervisors at 9:30 a.m. A public hearing will also be held at 9:30 a.m. the next day.

The 2014-15 fiscal year starts July 1.

Copyright © 2018, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World