On Aug. 27, the Board of Supervisors adopted the fiscal year 2019/2020 budget. In addition, we also adopted a resolution declaring the end of the county of Kern’s fiscal emergency.
By the end of this fiscal year (June 30, 2020), the county will have addressed the structural deficit in the General Fund that occurred with the large drop in the price of oil in 2016 which, in turn, resulted in a large decrease in the property tax from oil producing properties. Progress has also been made in addressing and mitigating the deficit in the Fire Fund. That work continues.
Declaring the end of the fiscal emergency doesn’t mean a start to wasteful spending. It doesn’t mean there won’t be challenges in the future. It doesn’t mean an end to our LEAN/Six Sigma efforts that have produced savings and efficiencies across departments. A culture of continuous improvement and getting the most out of each hard earned tax dollar must continue.
It does mean that the county employees and the Board of Supervisors have done the hard work and made the tough decisions to address and confront our budget deficit. It means that in next year’s budget, if, among other factors, our local and national economy continues on its current trajectory, the Board of Supervisors will be able to replenish reserves that have been used. It means we will be able to consider cost of living adjustments for our employees that have patiently stuck with us. It means we will hopefully be able to address at least a few in a litany of major maintenance projects that have been deferred for many years.
Fully mitigating the General Fund deficit has been a difficult and often painstaking achievement. Thanks are due to our current and former CAO, their staff, all of our department heads, our employees (some of the best people I’ve ever met) and our bargaining units for their patience and professionalism. Many of our service providers and suppliers have also stepped up to help the county through the last few difficult years.
This is a great moment for Kern County. We should take a little time to reflect on what we’ve been through and congratulate each other on completing the task.
Together, we did it.
David Couch represents Kern County's Fourth District.