Which County Expenses are Increasing & How Do We Pay for County Services

2 weeks ago I provided a high-level overview of the County Budget the Board is currently discussing, including whether we’re spending more than we’re receiving, how spending has increased, and how we’re spending the money. You can review that here.

Here is one of the charts from last time that shows the breakdown of how we’re planning to spend $618M this coming year.

First, let’s see how the County expects the expenses for each of the categories to change from the current year to the upcoming one.

Only General Government spending will decrease this upcoming year - and only by 3%. We’re seeing significant increases in Public Protection, Public Ways and Facilities, Health and Sanitation, Public Assistance, and Recreation.

The next thing to review is how we are funding each of these expense categories. We often think: Why don’t we just take some money from Health and Human Services and put it towards the jail? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Depending on where the revenue comes from, the money has to be used for specific purposes.

For each of these 9 categories, I’m going to break down their revenue sources into 3 categories:

  1. Revenue allocated to this Dept. this year: This could include General Revenue dollars, but it is allocated directly to the budget unit vs. being taken from the General Fund to cover a shortfall between expense and revenue
  2. Restricted savings: Money these budget units have in their savings account (i.e., fund balances) that can only be used for work in their budget unit
  3. General Fund: Unrestricted money that can be spent at the County’s discretion

Why does the General Government have a negative value for the General Fund? Because it receives the General Revenue (our discretionary revenue), but then gives it out to other departments rather than spending it all.

This is admittedly still quite confusing in part because we’re not being specific about where “Revenue Allocated to this Dept. This Year” (the dark blue) comes from. If we unpack that, then we can see a comprehensive picture of where the revenue comes from to pay for each category. Because we have to look at 78 different budget units and then add them up in order to do that, it takes time.

I’ve done it for a few categories and plan to finish the rest. Here are the breakdowns of revenue sources for a few:

Why does all this matter?

Because understanding where the funds come from to pay for different county government services helps us understand the flexibility to reallocate funds and the forces that may influence those funds (e.g., significant state budget cuts).

More to come on this…

What questions or concerns do you have?