News Details

County Feeling Fiscal Stress, Official Says

Handling monetary woes and reestablishing officials’ transparency among top city goals, says county Supervisor John Moorlach.

January 30, 2008

By BRIANNA BAILEY
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Orange County faces state budget cuts, dwindling tax revenue and rising crime rates, Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairman John Moorlach said in his State of the County address Tuesday.

“When economic cycles happen, they impact both the public sector and the private sector,” Moorlach said. “We need to be prepared. We are seeing more stress on our system.”

Moorlach said one of the board’s biggest priorities this year will be fiscal transparency. “We must retain the public’s trust and give them the best bang for their buck,” he said. “We want to work together through thick and thin, but we need all hands on the oars.”

Moorlach’s speech, before a modest crowd during the regular board meeting, came on the heels of an independent audit report released Monday that found the county’s investment portfolio was well-managed, despite criticism from Moorlach. The chairman called for Treasurer Chriss Street to be stripped of his investment powers last year after Street surprised supervisors with news that the county faced a credit-rating downgrade on its debt securities.

The county board voted 4-1 in December to hire an independent consultant who would assess the risk posture of short-term debt instruments known as structured investment vehicles (SIVs) in the county’s portfolio. The new independent audit found the county’s investments were sound.

Moorlach also said the $14.5 billion state deficit and across-the-board budget cuts are already affecting the county. The county is responsible for administering state funds for many programs on a county level. Funds would have to be overseen with care in the coming year, he said. Mortgage crisis woes and a stagnant job market in Orange County also will mean lower tax revenue for the county in the year ahead, he said.

“When we’re down, we need to put our best foot forward,” Moorlach said. “These will be very interesting times. I’m looking forward to an interesting time doing our best with the resources we have available.”

BRIANNA BAILEY may be reached at (714) 966-4625 or at brianna.bailey@latimes.com.