YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

The Region

Riverside County Cuts Are Looming

The chief financial officer plans to ask all departments to reduce budgets. Proposal could save $10 million and increase reserve fund.

August 20, 2003|Seema Mehta | Times Staff Writer

Riverside County's top financial officer on Tuesday said he will recommend budget cuts from every department because he expects the depletion of the county's reserve fund to continue due to the state's fiscal problems.

In coming weeks, Chief Financial Officer Ed Corser will ask general government department managers to draft plans to cut 4% of their budgets, and for police, fire and other public-safety agencies to draft 1.5% in possible cuts.

If the Riverside County Board of Supervisors agrees to implement these cuts in October, it will save the county about $10 million annually, he said.

Initially, that money would be put aside, and returned to the departments if the county's financial situation brightens -- although chances of that happening are remote, he said.

Corser said such moves probably will be necessary because he expects the state to look to local governments again next summer when it tries to balance the books, and he wants to see the county's reserve fund built up to at least $40 million.

"A fragile balance, that's what we have here," Corser said.

The reserve, which was $39 million this sum- mer, has been drawn down to $12 million. That money was used to avoid cutting ser- vices when the state cut $36 million from the coun- ty's general fund earlier this year.

What's left of the reserves will be used to avoid going into the red next year, he said.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved two cost-cutting moves designed to save $1.4 million: forbidding departments, except for police and fire, from buying new automobiles; and having the county executive office review purchases of more than $5,000.

County financial officials also laid out more drastic measures that could be adopted, including the across-the-board cuts, using money from the state tobacco settlement ahead of schedule, freezing the hiring of non-safety personnel, no longer using temporary workers and requiring county employees take 160 hours of unpaid leave annually.

"It looks very dire," Supervisor Marion Ashley said.

Los Angeles Times Articles