KPMG was hired to save Riverside County money. But one supervisor wonders when the savings part starts

By Jeff Horseman / Staff Writer
Published: Dec. 14, 2016 – Updated: 9:21 p.m.

Change in Riverside County government comes at a price – almost $21 million, to be precise.

That’s how much the county, with its roughly $5 billion budget and 20,000 or so employees, is paying a private consulting firm to find savings and efficiencies. But at least one county supervisor wonders when the investment in KPMG will pay off.

On Tuesday, Dec. 13, The Board of Supervisors approved a $1.9 million contract amendment so KPMG can help departments implement cost savings recommended by the firm. KPMG’s work started last year with a $761,600 contract to study public safety spending.

That review led to 51 recommendations. In March, KPMG got $15.7 million to help implement those recommendations and another $2.7 million to find savings in non-public safety departments.

KPMG is being counted on to help the county escape a cycle of ongoing expenses outpacing revenue. In the past few years, the county has struggled to pay for raises guaranteed in contracts with union employees, who agreed to pay more toward their retirement after officials warned of skyrocketing pension costs.

The county also must pay at least $40 million a year more for jail inmate health care to settle a lawsuit. Costs associated with realignment – the shifting of responsibility for low-level offenders from the state to counties – also are blamed for adding to the red ink, and the county has to hire staff for the upcoming Indio jail expansion.

The Sheriff’s Department, district attorney and other public safety agencies consume three-fourths of the county’s discretionary spending, County Executive Officer Jay Orr said Tuesday. Of 10 California counties surveyed, just one other spent more than 50 to 55 percent on public safety, he said.

Much of KPMG’s work centers on protecting the public more efficiently. But unlike other department heads, Sheriff Stan Sniff and District Attorney Mike Hestrin are elected officials who have wide latitude to run their departments as they see fit, regardless of how supervisors want them to handle their budgets.

Some KPMG recommendations, such as changing shift structures for deputies, require union consent. The county currently is in negotiations with unions representing deputies and other employees.

KPMG has more than 40 staff members dedicated to the county and plans to add 10 more in February, said Riverside County spokesman Ray Smith.

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