SLO County ends fiscal year in good shape, budget report shows

dsneed@thetribunenews.comSeptember 17, 2013 

The County Government Center in San Luis Obispo.

JOE JOHNSTON — jjohnston@thetribunenews.com Buy Photo

San Luis Obispo County has weathered the fifth of an estimated seven years of budget shortfalls caused by the national recession and lower property values.

County supervisors Tuesday received their final quarterly budget report for the 2012-13 fiscal year. Nikki Schmidt, of the county Administrative Office, said a combination of not filling positions and other belt-tightening helped the county meet its budget goals.

“All county departments ended the year at or below their budgeted level of general fund support,” she said. “They contributed approximately $8 million in savings to the general fund.”

The county developed a “Seven Year Pain Plan” to deal with the prolonged downturn in the economy. Supervisors praised the willingness of employees and their labor unions to sacrifice.

“We are turning a corner,” said Supervisor Frank Mecham. “We are not quite there yet, but we are getting there.”

Supervisor Adam Hill agreed. “I think our departments have been doing a really good job of fiscal management,” he said.

A flurry of construction activity at the two large-scale commercial solar plants in the California Valley gave the county a boost of $11.8 million in one-time sales tax revenue, Schmidt said.

In addition to leaving some positions unfilled, the county has saved money by revamped pension plans for new employees that reduce retirement benefits and stipulate that employees hired after Jan. 1, 2013, will pay more of their share for benefits. The county’s improving economy has also helped.

The county’s proposed budget for this fiscal year ending June 30, 2014, is $494.8 million.

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