While the Canyon Lake City Council continues to press forward for ways to reduce the cost of public safety, a few people have said they think it would be better for Canyon Lake to disincorporate and come under the auspices of the County of Riverside. Here is District 1 Supervisor Kevin Jeffries’ take on county finances.
Canyon Lake is included in his district, which also encompasses about 450,000 residents in the cities of Wildomar, Lake Elsinore and most of the City of Riverside. The district also covers the unincorporated communities of De Luz, Gavilan Hills, Good Hope, Lake Hills, Lake Mathews, La Cresta, Mead Valley, Meadowbrook, Spring Hills, Temescal Valley, Tenaja, Warm Springs and Woodcrest.
Here is this month’s update from Supervisor Jeffries.
By KEVIN JEFFRIES, District 1 Supervisor
July 1st kicked off the new fiscal year for the County of Riverside, and it’s going to be a rough ride. In the course of budget discussions I have been called a penny pincher and a tightwad – however I view those as “complimentary insults” when serving in my elected capacity.
After all, it’s your tax dollars we are talking about spending (or not). And when it comes to good ol’ fashioned spending, nobody does it better than government!
Over the next 12 months, Riverside County government spending is projected to outstrip revenues by roughly $1.17 million per week – requiring the County to draw down its rainy day reserves by roughly $61 million.
The following fiscal year, the red ink spending is expected to continue – but at a lesser amount (if spending is held flat). Besides my inherent gripe with deficit spending, my concern about spending our rainy day reserves is – it’s not raining!
For the most part, our economy has been rebounding, or at least trending upward for several years in a row. Revenues are up (meaning taxpayers are paying more taxes), yet even in this good (or better) economy, our government is unable to live within its means.
Now to be fair, I have to point out that our county government was hit with the perfect financial storm. A massive prisoner rights lawsuit settlement requires the county (aka taxpayers) to spend an additional $40 million per year to provide some of the best healthcare in the state – not for fellow taxpayers, but instead for inmates in the county jails.
This is compounded with the statewide re-alignment of state prisons, whereby fewer convicted criminals are sent to overcrowded state prisons and are instead sentenced to overcrowded county jails, which then leads to early releases back into our communities, which in turn leads to having to build an (extremely expensive and long overdue) additional county jail to hold the serious offenders, which of course requires having to hire more correctional officers to work in the new jail, all of which puts pressure on the county Probation and Public Defender Departments and the county District Attorney’s offices.
And while all of this criminal justice upheaval is occurring, it’s no surprise that new crime stats indicate that crime in many neighborhoods is on the rise (likely due in large part because all of the early releases and lack of lower cost alternatives), which then, of course, leads to requests to hire more law enforcement officers to patrol our streets.
While all of the above financial turmoil makes up a very large part of the financial heartburn for our county, you also have to throw in other lawsuits, previously approved pay and benefit increases, workers comp claims, non-essential spending, and inefficient departments and/or services.
It is my view that these challenges are the responsibility of the five-member elected Board of Supervisors (and the executive staff) to fix, and as such, I have introduced a series of cost saving proposals for the budget and changes to the budget process itself.
We have some great, hard-working professional employees at all levels and in all departments. They and all Riverside County taxpayers depend on the County Board of Supervisors to provide sound leadership at the top. I believe it can and must be done. After all “the buck stops here.”
The final budget is scheduled to be voted upon July 26th, but if you want to watch the last Board meeting (June 28th) on the budget, visit http://riversidecountyca.iqm2.com.