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Budget-ShortfallEDINBURG — A new sheriff substation in Weslaco and proposed cost of living adjustments are two major factors affecting the 2013 Hidalgo County budget, Sergio Cruz, budget officer, told county commissioners during a July 24 workshop.

Cruz told the commissioners that 2013’s estimated revenues are $159.5 million.

“Revenues have not increased significantly this year compared to last, about $1 million increase due to property, but we’ve incurred $3.7 million in expenditures since the last adoption” Cruz told commissioners. “If we don’t intend to cut and keep the status quo, we would have to cut into the fund balance.”

Hidalgo County’s 2012 adopted budget was approximately $166.7 million, with more than $3.7 million in adjustments, bringing 2013’s base budget to $170.5 million with an estimated shortfall of a little more than $11 million, Cruz said.

He told commissioners that a cost of a living adjustment, which is computed based on consumer price index, for 2013 comes out to a 4.7 percent increase for an additional cost of a little more than $4.4 million. He said the last cost of adjustment increase the court gave was in 2009, at 5 percent.

The cost of living adjustment is not set in stone, and commissioners will discuss it during a series of upcoming workshops.

The second largest financial consideration for a 2013 budget is the sheriff’s substation in Weslaco. Construction will finish up in either November or December, and it’s going to cost the county approximately $2.5 million in personnel and operating expenses.

2012 General Fund Budget Adjustments/Increases
  • Salaries and Fringes — $1,504,328
  • Room and Board (Jail - Out of County) $850,000
  • Countywide Fuel/Gasoline $500,000
  • Unemployment - $350,000
  • Countywide Electricity - $250,000
  • Retirement - $150,000
  • Historical Museum – Jail Renovation - $100,000
  • City of McAllen Interlocal (spay and neuter) - $50,000
  • Mercado Delta Lake Lease - $20,750
  • Total: $3,775,078

Source: Hidalgo County Department of Budget and Management

And then there’s worker’s compensation, which stands at approximately $1.2 million. Cruz said any worker’s comp contribution the county’s been paying comes out of the fund balance, which is about $3.9 million, with about $2 million in claims and admin expenses. He suggested phasing in worker’s comp throughout a two- to three-year period so the general fund doesn’t incur the expense at one time.

Depending on what the fund balance drawdown is, Cruz said a staff reduction plan might be prudent.

“If we were to adopt and dip into about a $6 million drawdown, I would recommend a staff reduction plan within the next six months so that next year we won’t be in the same boat,” Cruz said. “It would be via attrition.”

Depending on how the court decides to approach cost of living adjustments and funding and staffing the sheriff’s substation, the 2013 drawdown could be somewhere between $5 and $6 million.

But there is one for sure-item that came out of the workshop, and that’s the need to hold more workshops. The commission will schedule an intense series of budget workshops with the possibility of having two a week, and possibly some on weekends.

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