While many valley counties have seen their budgets improve in recent years, that hasn't been the case in Kern County. That's because as California's leading oil producing region, the county budget follows a boom and bust cycle that mirrors that of the energy industry. When oil prices are high, property tax revenue booms, as the valuation of land is based on the value of oil that remains in the ground. But when oil prices are low, the county's budget takes a big hit.
Now the county faces a $41 million budget shortfall, and the Board of Supervisors has voted to hire an outside company to study the Kern County Fire Department, and look for ways to save money. County administrator Ryan Alsop says the focus is on reducing what he calls unnecessary overtime. The union that represents county firefighters has pushed back, questioning the plan, and asking why the county isn't giving other county departments similar treatment. Alsop recently joined us on Valley Public Radio to talk about the budget issues and why county leaders have directed this scrutiny on the fire department.