Contra Costa County's 2020-2021 budget is balanced "at this moment," the county administrator said, but COVID-19 coronavirus-related expenses and other future obligations make for a less rosy future forecast.
Chief among the looming costs in the near future, County Administrator David Twa told the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors this week, are $43 million a year to treat mentally ill jail inmates and an estimated $77 million a year in general fund money to support the Contra Costa Regional Medical Center in Martinez -- both significant increases.
"We have good fund balances (now), but we'll be spending them down over the next couple of years, irrespective of the COVID-19 issue," Twa said.
As for the COVID-19 coronavirus response, Twa said the county has expedited its purchasing process to help make sure county workers have needed masks, gowns and other personal protective equipment, as well as 100 new laptops to enable county workers to do their jobs remotely.
Twa said the county could well end up spending $100 million on COVID-19-related treatment and protection; he hopes the federal government will reimburse much of that, but added that there's no guarantee how much of that reimbursement Contra Costa County will see.
Twa said it's possible property tax valuations could drop, too, as they did during the 2008 Great Recession. A loss of $37 million of that revenue, Twa said, "would create a significant hole in the budget."
Complicating matters further, County Supervisor Karen Mitchoff of Concord said, are probable lower sales tax and gas tax revenues, with people buying fewer things and driving fewer miles.
"This whole situation just continues to have a domino effect," Mitchoff said.
This vicious cycle will play out in all cities and counties during the COVID-19 pandemic, Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond said.
"We're going to go through more difficult financial times before things get better," Gioia said.
Twa said the preliminary 2020-2021 Contra Costa County budget is already headed to the printer, but that dates for the county's budget hearings (April 21) and tentative adoption (May 12) are meaningless now, given all the COVID-19-related actions either taken or to be taken. Those hearings have now been delayed, but a budget must be passed by the end of September.