Basis of Budgeting
The County's budget and its accounting system are based on the modified accrual system. The fiscal year begins on July 1. Revenues are budgeted as they are expected to be received or as they are applicable to the fiscal year. Consistent with generally accepted accounting principles, revenues are recognized when they are measurable and available. The County's availability criterion is 60 days after the end of the fiscal year.
Expenses are budgeted at an amount sufficient for 12 months if ongoing, and as needed in either partial or full amounts for one-time items. In each fund, expenses and increases to obligated fund balances must be balanced with available financing.
All Years, Excluding Fiscal Year 2020-21
The County's budget planning process begins in the fall of each year with the Five-Year Strategic Financial Plan, which is presented to the Board in December. In January, the County Budget Office prepares budget policies and detailed instructions for County departments including a calendar establishing completion dates for key events in the budgeting process.
County departments prepare budget requests which are submitted in early March to the County Budget Office. Meetings are held with the department head or financial manager, the County Executive Officer (CEO), and key Budget Office staff to discuss the requests. The County Budget Office reviews and analyzes department budget requests and makes recommendations to the CEO. The Budget Office, in coordination with the County Auditor-Controller's office, also establishes the level of non-departmental, County-wide revenues that are projected to be available to the County. The budget is compiled, balanced, and reviewed with the Chief Financial Officer and CEO. Upon completion of the review, a Recommended Budget is published.
In May, the County Budget Office plans and conducts briefing sessions for the County Board of Supervisors' staff members and individual briefings with Board members. In early June during the Public Budget Hearings, the CEO presents the budget, and the Board casts straw votes and provides direction. Subsequently, in late June, the Board adopts the budget on a simple majority vote. The adopted budget becomes the spending plan and spending limit for County departments.
In summary, the Recommended Budget serves as the County’s baseline budget, and excludes restore and expand augmentations; these augmentations are included under separate cover in the Budget Augmentation Requests document. Board-approved augmentations are reflected in the Annual Budget.
Fiscal Year 2020-21
As a result of the unprecedented public health challenges and significant economic impacts resulting from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the budget process for FY 2020-21 differs from that in prior years.
In early June, the Board approved a base budget which set NCC limits for departments and included transfers, essential technical adjustments such as position realignment, and funding for in-progress, ongoing capital and information technology projects. This permitted the County to make payments in accordance with the approved appropriations when the fiscal year began on July 1, 2020 and provided time for the County to better assess the pandemic's economic impacts and operational challenges for FY 2020-21. In early September, a Public Budget Hearing was held for the FY 2020-21 Recommended Budget, which was subsequently adopted in mid-September.