County Approves $5.8 Billion Budget

Orange County’s county government now has a $5.8 billion spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year, after the Board of Supervisors adopted a budget earlier this week.

Bolstered by extra funding from taxes and other sources, the county expects its biggest revenue and spending increases since the Great Recession devastated local government budgets across the country.

The county planned for having more than $60 million in extra discretionary money, and about half of it was provided to two departments: the sheriff and district attorney, amid salary and benefit increases for their staff.

The budget also assumes an across-the-board 1-percent increase in employee salaries beyond what’s in existing labor contracts.

That comes as the county gears up for negotiations with its largest labor group, the Orange County Employees Association, which represents about two-thirds of the county workforce.

The county’s overall workforce is proposed to remain at roughly the same level of 18,150 budgeted employees. No layoffs are proposed, nor is an overall increase in budgeted positions.

The county’s retirement system, while still underfunded by billions of dollars, is looking healthier, according to county staff.

The unfunded liability has been shrinking more quickly than the system’s actuaries projected, and is slated to be 80 percent funded by 2020, according to Jaime Martinez of the county’s central budget office.

Also envisioned in the proposed budget are plans to finish paying off debt from the county’s 1994 bankruptcy over the next two years. So far, the county has paid $1.6 billion. 

You can contact Nick Gerda at ngerda@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.