For the first time ever, Tulare County has a budget over $1 billion. Several factors, including an increase in property taxes, increased state revenues and debt pay-downs, contributed to this–which has allowed the county to give most employees a three percent pay raise, unfreeze some positions and increase the reserve fund by $2 million.
Both Supervisor Pete Vander Poel and Supervisor Steve Worthley expressed concern that the county held, at $22 million, too small a reserve, and encouraged the administration to set a more realistic amount. Jean Rousseau, county administrative officer, said the rule of thumb is to have a two months’ reserve. Tulare County has that. Fresno County, conversely, with a budget of $1.7 billion, holds only $14.4 million in reserve.
Rousseau said that fiscally conservative spending policies from the board of supervisors and a statewide economic recovery allowed Tulare County to make positive steps this year. “We are in good shape but still have work to do,” said Rousseau. “The bottom line is I changed my mind from describing our budget from ‘stem the bleeding’ to ‘stabilized.’
“Not facing a budget deficit for the second straight year means we can focus on improving our organization as a whole and continue to provide important services to Tulare County residents,” Vander Poel said. “I would like to thank all department heads and employees for their excellent work.”
“While the economy is turning around, we will still remain conservative to ensure we can continue to avoid drastic measures while facing unknown economic circumstances,” said Rousseau.
After the budget presentation was finished, Supervisor Worthley thanked Rousseau and his staff for an excellent report and all their hard work. “In other counties, the budget presentation goes on for days and days and causes lots of strife,” said Worthley. In Tulare County Supervisors’ chambers, it took about 20 minutes to pass the $1 billion budget with a 5-0 vote.