Friday, April 28, 2006

Solano County predicts $20 million surplus

April 28, 2006

County predicts $20 million surplus

By Mike Corpos

FAIRFIELD - With the end of the 2005-06 fiscal year in sight, Solano County's general fund looks to finish the year very much in the black.

Solano County isn't spending as much money as originally planned and is bringing in more revenue that expected - which adds up to about $20 million extra money in the general fund so far this year, county budget analysts said in a report to the Board of Supervisors.

Add that to contingency funding already in the general fund budget and as of the third quarter, Solano County could have $40 million by the end of this fiscal year, the report said.

The general fund represents unrestricted money which the county can spend as it likes, as opposed to other funding earmarked by state or federal governments for such things as welfare checks or operating courts.

According to the report, the county spent $4.3 million than expected out of the general funding and brought in $15.8 million more than expected. The county expected a $12.3 million shortfall in the general fund, but that was offset by higher-than-expected revenues.

"This great news is the product of year-round spending discipline exercised by county department heads, led by our county administrator," board Chairman Supervisor John Vasquez in a press release accompanying the report.

But it wasn't all good news.

"There are outstanding issues, listed in the body of this report, which may affect the projected fund balance," the report said.

Interest rates, the stability of the economy, and caseloads and costs in health and social services and criminal justice areas are some of the variables that could affect the county's projections.

Once the final surplus amount is known, what to do with the extra money becomes the question, Supervisor Duane Kromm said.

The money could be used for a proposed health and social services center in Vallejo instead of using future tobacco settlement revenue, he said.

Other posible uses for the money include improving child welfare services or filling significant vacancies in key county departments, Kromm said.

The report shows a 14 percent vacancy rate in health and social services, 10 percent in the sheriff's department and 18 percent in information technology, Kromm pointed out. That could easily be a reason the county spent less money than projected.

"Also at this point we're in a position where I think possibly cutting taxes would be worth talking about," Kromm said.

Reach Mike Corpos at 427-6977 or

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