Documented by Kristina Mansfield
Here’s what you need to know
- The Fresno County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to approve the fiscal year 2023-24 final budget resolution.
- The total recommended budget requirements, excluding special districts, is $4.8 billion.
- The budget reflects a net increase of 12 new positions, marking the lowest number of net additions in at least a decade, according to County Administrative Officer Paul Nerland.
- How does the overall budget process for the Board of Supervisors compare to other local branches of government such as the City Council?
- Has the quality of psychiatric services changed along with the increased cost of services to the county?
- When will the county’s job postings be updated to reflect its new approach of offering higher-paid positions with fewer positions available?
The Fresno County Board of Supervisors’ fiscal year 2023-24 budget hearings took place Sept. 11, 2023, at 9:30 a.m. at the Hall of Records (2281 Tulare St., Room 301, Fresno CA 93721-2198). The meeting was also available via live stream (https://fresnocounty.granicus.com/). The agenda was posted online prior to the meeting. Printed copies were also available.
In attendance were:
Sal Quintero, 3rd District, chair
Nathan Magsig, 5th District, vice-chair
Brian Pacheco, 1st District
Steve Brandau, 2nd District
Buddy Mendes, 4th District
Paul Nerland, County Administrative Officer; Daniel C. Cederborg, County Counsel; and Bernice E. Seidel, clerk of the Board of Supervisors, were also present at the meeting.
Prior to the start of the meeting, Quintero gave special remembrance in honor of 9/11. “Today we ask that we keep the fallen heroes in our thoughts and recognize the day,” he said. Magsig then led both the Invocation and the Pledge of Allegiance.
Quintero started the meeting with a brief explanation of how the day’s budget hearings would work. “Before we begin, I’d like to outline how today’s hearing will proceed,” he said. “After each item is heard, I will ask for comments from the board and the public. When we get to item number eight, I will ask for one motion from the board to approve the budgets as presented.”
He then turned the meeting over to Paul Nerland, County Administrative Officer, who gave a brief presentation recapping the 2022-23 fiscal year before getting into the details of the fiscal year 2023-24 budget itself.
“As we consider the budget process, I want to take a moment to remind ourselves why we’re here, and what we’re all about. Our vision is working together for quality of life for all in Fresno County,” said Nerland. “We have a diverse population of over 1 million people spread over 6,000 square miles, whether they live in one of our 15 incorporated cities, whether they live in rural or farmland, foothills or mountains. Our mission remains the same: to provide excellent public services to our diverse community.”
“The 2022-2023 fiscal year was a year of resilience,” he said, before highlighting wins from three key areas including the county’s Flood Response Operations Group (FROG), its efforts on the issues of homelessness and various projects funded from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
“When we talk about the American Rescue Plan, there’s been a lot of work done that this community and this county can be proud of,” said Nerland. “The county and your board authorized funding transformational projects from parks to water and sewer infrastructure, to community organizations that assist children, the elderly and other vulnerable populations, distribution of food, the launch of a groundbreaking rural mobile health program offering medical services to farmworkers in rural areas, a new community resource center for the Marjaree Mason Center – we could go on.”
A map of ARPA projects is available in the 2022-23 fiscal year recap here.
“You’ll notice a theme on the budget book, and in the budget presentation, of water,” Nerland said. “There’s also a new feature where we have added a QR code that brings up videos about what’s featured in the report; you can actually see more information about what’s going on in Fresno County.”
Nerland wrapped up his presentation by highlighting the county’s “renewed commitment to tell our story, whether it be on social media, whether it be on the videos we put out, there’s so many different things that we’re doing.”
“I’m so proud of some of the efforts that have taken place within our communications team,” he said. Finally, Nerland said the county’s reach on Facebook has increased by 500%, and its reach on Instagram has increased by 1,000%.
Next, Nerland segued into the portion of the board meeting allocated to the fiscal year 2023-24 budget.
“As we talk about the fiscal year 2023-24 budget, I just want to remind you about the process,” he said. “The budget process began with instructions to all departments in the first quarter of this year. There were budget workshops back in March, hours and hours of preparation and work over the summer, working through this robust process. The recommended budget was released a couple of weeks ago as you know, and we briefed with you [the board members] individually, and received many questions and comments.”
“As your CAO, my job is to present a recommended budget that matches your [the board’s] priorities, is sustainable, but also adheres to certain guidelines and principles to help us in the decision-making process,” Nerland continued.
Those guiding principles are:
- Budget-realistic estimates: Budget revenue estimates that are achievable and based on historical actuals;
- Budget conservatively: Budget conservatively for discretionary revenue estimates;
- Disciplined adherence: Disciplined adherence to structural fund balance target (NCC);
- Use of one-time revenues for one-time purposes: Use of one-time revenues for one-time purposes such as reserves, future budgetary challenges, capital needs and paying off debt.
On the guiding principles, Nerland said: “We are sticking to them, and I would argue they’re probably more important now than they’ve ever been.”
- He went on to name several goals of the proposed budget:
- Ensure that projected revenues are realistic and achievable.
- Budget discretionary revenues conservatively while adhering to the net county cost target.
- Use one-time revenue, carry-over from the prior year or revenue for one-time purposes for one-time projects only.
- He also said one-time funding is not recommended for ongoing services.
Next, Nerland went over the positions that are included in the recommended budget. “The 2023-24 recommended budget only adds a modest net gain of 12 positions, which brings our position total to 8,412. I would add that this is the lowest number of net additions in at least a decade,” he said.
An outline of the fiscal year 2023-24 recommended budget is included below:
- The fiscal year 2023-24 recommended budget is $4.8 billion in total.
- $2.4 billion is for the general fund.
- The general fund is also known as the county’s general operating fund.
- $2.4 billion is for the general fund.
- Approximately $2.1 billion of the general fund is for human services and justice services.
- The increase in the general fund of $181 million from fiscal year 2022-23 is largely due to significant increases in these types of services.
- Increase in human services is largely due to:
- Estimated increases in the Department of Behavioral Health and contracted services that resulted from the conversion to a fee-for-service structure under the state’s plans to reform Medi-Cal;
- Increased cost for in-patient psychiatric placements;
- An increase in operating leases of buildings due to the relocation of programs from the University Medical Center campus into leased properties.
- Increase in justice services is primarily due to:
- Negotiated salary increases;
- Increase in facilities and utilities costs;
- Increase in risk insurance rates.
Other fund types include:
- Capital Projects: Used for large or long-term projects for buildings and infrastructure.
- The recommended budget shows an increase of $46 million, primarily due to the inclusion of capital projects funded from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
- Debt Service: Funds are used for payments for pension obligation bonds and lease revenue refunding bonds (LRRB).
- A decrease of $932,000 is the result of paying off the 2012 Lease Revenue Bonds for the Juvenile Justice Campus and Downtown Energy Project in 2022-23.
- Enterprise Funds: Provides services to outside users who pay the cost of services on a reimbursement basis.
- Examples include the American Avenue Landfill and various disposal sites.
- The $13 million decrease shown is due to the progress of Phase 1 of the Waste Relocation Project.
- Internal Service Funds (ISS): Similar to enterprise funds in that they provide services on a cost reimbursement.
- These services are provided to county departments and to other governmental agencies.
- The primary increase in the ISS is for insurance costs and risk management and estimated expenditures in fleet services.
- Special Revenue/Trust Funds: Money that is restricted or committed for specific expenditures or use.
- The majority of this revenue is received from the state or federal government.
- These funds are transferred on a monthly or quarterly basis to general fund departments based on eligible expenditures.
Quintero opened the floor to comments and questions from the board for general fund budgets.
- Magsig pointed out the extra time given to the board to review this year’s budget: “We received our budget books a few weeks ago – which I appreciate us getting those in advance – I just want to thank your [Nerland’s] office, as well as those departments that had an opportunity to have conversations with us about the budget as it’s been presented this year.”
- Brandeau questioned Nerland about the addition of the 12 new positions:
“[Paul] About six weeks ago, maybe three board meetings ago or maybe four, I asked about positions. And so help me understand our method – what happens if that position goes unfilled. Let’s just choose one position and it pays $75k but we don’t get any applications. What happens with that position? Does it get rolled over?”
“It does,” Nerland responded. “Today, the county has about a 15% vacancy rate. And so, in each department, as we end the year, if they did not expend those funds, those dollars are part of what rolls over into the next year … it gets re-budgeted.”
“Here’s what I hear,” Brandeau said. “Say we’re having a hard time filling those positions. It’s not just unique to Fresno County, it’s a hard time to be hiring people. … The public says – ‘That job is worth what? $100,000, $75,000; I’m not going to leave my job to go do that.’ So we have these 10 spots budgeted, but no one takes us up on those 10. And then I suggested, why can’t we just wipe those 10 clear, and then come back with four spots that pay $100,000 where we can actually get a body in that position. Talk to me about that – is that actually reflected at all in this budget, strategically?”
“Philosophically, if i restate what you’re saying – and i agree, 100%,” Nerland said, “I’d rather have fewer competitively paid positions than more positions that we can’t fill that aren’t paid as competitively.”
Quintero then moved on to the Capital Projects Fund, Debt Service Fund, Internal Services Fund, Enterprise Funds and Special Revenue/Trust Funds. There was no public comment.
The board voted unanimously to adopt the budget resolution at 10:19 a.m. The meeting was adjourned at 10:20 a.m.
The next regular board meeting will be held on Sept. 19.
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