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Facts & Frequently Asked Questions

General Information

When referring to the County Budget, the total appropriations are referenced.   This is essentially the spending limit for the County which, per Government Code 29120, 29125-29130 shall not be exceeded.  For FY 2024-25, the total appropriation limit is $9.5 billion.  This is a 2% increase over the prior year and a 39% increase over the five-year period, which is primarily due to the County’s increased costs associated with the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

There are currently 18,678 budgeted positions, a slight increase from last year and an increase of 1% from five years ago.  The FY 2024-25 Recommended Budget includes requests for an additional 250 positions to meet the increased demands for services and programs for county residents. On average, 11% of the budgeted positions are vacant at any one time.

Financial Planning

Each year, the County updates its Five-Year Strategic Financial Plan (SFP) to include current assumptions on revenue growth and planned projects.  This is coordinated through the Budget and Finance Office and is received by the Board of Supervisors in December.  The SFP provides the relevant fiscal policies that govern the budget development process; planned maintenance, capital improvements, and IT system projects over the five-year period; and an estimate of the budgetary needs of the departments for the next fiscal year which allows for informed decisions regarding the use of current and future resources.  The County is a large, complex entity responsible for providing services and programs for the residents as well as ensuring the infrastructure, such as the airport, roadways in unincorporated areas, and landfills, is properly maintained.  This requires complex, detailed planning and available resources.  All SFPs are posted on the County’s website:

The County’s financial structure consists of several types of funds as required by state or federal revenue sources or by the types of expenditures being tracked.  Each of these funds maintains a fund balance, the net amount remaining after all expenditures and revenues are accounted for, which is used to ensure there is sufficient funding for the fiscal period’s planned expenditures.  Not all of the fund balance may be available to use.  Fund balance amounts may be categorized as “reserved” and set aside to meet a current obligation to a contract, future capital or IT needs, or as contingency to cover an unforeseen or unexpected event.   

As described above, the fund balance is the net amount remaining after all expenditures and revenues have been accounted for in the fund and may be classified as either “reserved” or “unreserved.”   The General Fund is the main fund used by the County to account for many departments’ operational activities and provides for the ongoing operation of the County.  The Government Finance Officers Association has issued recommendations for local governments to maintain a financial, also known as contingency, reserve of two months of operating revenue, which for FY 2024-25 is approximately $696 million, to safeguard against risks such as recession and natural disasters.  These reserves are part of the reserved fund balance and maintained in the General Fund.

Budget Process

A fiscal year, or fiscal period, is a 12-month period that differs from a calendar year.  The state and local governments, such as the County of Orange, use a July to June fiscal period whereas the federal government has an October to September fiscal period.

September – December: The County begins its budget process with the preparation of the Five-Year Strategic Financial Plan which allows for the impacts of assumed revenue increases and capital and equipment expenditures to be determined and provide an estimate of the budgetary needs for each department.   

January – March: County departments develop their annual budget for the next fiscal year and provide year-end projections for the current fiscal year to determine fund balances available.  All budgets are due to the County Budget and Finance Office on or before March 1st.

March – June: The County Budget and Finance Office ensures all budgeted funds are structurally balanced and works with each department to ensure all operational needs are met and clarify any requests for additional resources.  The Recommended Budget and Augmentation Books are compiled and released to the public a minimum of 10 days prior to the scheduled Public Budget Hearings which is typically the Board meeting falling on the 2nd Tuesday in June. 

At the Public Budget Hearings, the Recommended Budget for the next fiscal year is presented to the Board of Supervisors.  This budget consists of the department requests and the County Executive Office recommendations to the Board for discussion and approval.  During this hearing, the Board provides non-binding straw votes for each department’s budget and may also provide additional direction for the subsequent adoption of the budget.  

The County’s budget is revised through planned Budget Reports that are placed on the Board Agenda in September, January, and April and require a four-fifths vote to approve.

  • September: The estimates used in developing the budget are reconciled with the actual ending balances for the year and adjustments are made as required to address any fund balancing issues. 
  • January: This is the only opportunity where departments may submit changes to their budgets to align their estimated state or federal allocations with the known amounts or to add any critical capital or equipment needs that were not known at the time of budget development. 
  • April: Year-end projections that result in appropriation shortfalls or savings are addressed in the April Budget Report to prepare for and ensure a smooth year-end closing process. 

Budget Overview

Each department is responsible for the development and monitoring of their individual budgets.  The County’s Chief Financial Officer oversees the compilation of the countywide budget and publishing of the Five-Year Strategic Financial Plan and Budget Books.  The Board of Supervisors is the approving authority for the appropriation limits and position changes. 

The Recommended Budget for FY 2024-25 has an appropriation limit of $9.5 billion.

County departments prepare and submit structurally balanced budgets that conserve financial resources, implement savings alternatives, and minimize costs consistent with the County’s mission, values, strategic initiatives, and goals.  Requests for General Fund resources are limited to items that are critical in nature and vital to the health, safety and sustainability of the County and community. 

Budget requests are reviewed and analyzed to prior year trends, the Five-Year Strategic Financial Plan, and the economic forecasts provided by organizations such as Chapman University or UCLA.  Recommendations on the resulting budgets are then made to the Chief Financial Officer and County Executive Officer. The budget is compiled, balanced, and, upon completion of the final review, a Recommended Budget is publicly published and prepared for the Public Budget Hearings in June.

Of the $9.5 billion in appropriations in the FY 2024-25 Recommended Budget, approximately half (49%, $4.7 billion) is funded from restricted or dedicated revenues that must be used for specific purposes such as for John Wayne Airport, OC Waste & Recycling, Roads, Flood, Libraries, and Parks.  Another 39% ($3.7 billion) is funded by state and federal allocations or grants to administer state and federal programs at the local government level.   

Discretionary funds are not restricted/dedicated for a specific purpose or passed through the state or federal government to carry out their programs at a local level.  This represents about 11% ($1.1 billion) of the total funding included in the FY 2024-25 Recommended Budget. This is also referred to as General Purpose Revenue (GPR) and is used to fund Net County Cost (NCC). 

Departments receive NCC allocations, approved by the Board, for programs and activities which are not funded by specific, dedicated revenue streams.  While GPR does not have the specific limitations associated with the dedicated and non-discretionary revenue sources, the County uses GPR to meet its mandated services requirements that are not fulfilled by the state and federal governments such as funding match requirements for Community Services programs and operational expenses of the Public Protection and General Government Services departments. 

Mandated services account for 91% of NCC, with the remaining 9% allocated to non-mandated services. Property taxes are the largest and most important source of GPR. As of March 2024, property taxes accounted for almost 91% of all GPR. Of particular note, Orange County’s General Fund receives the lowest property tax revenue allocation share (5%) of all 58 counties in California.

Included in the County’s Five-Year Strategic Financial Plan are strategic priorities costing $1 million or more in any one year that may span over multiple fiscal periods and require planning to ensure sufficient resources to implement.   Funds are typically set aside from unanticipated revenues, growth funds, or savings realized at the end of the fiscal period and reside in a reserved fund balance account.


The budget is categorized by types of expenditures with 70% in the following categories: (FY 2024-25 Recommended Budget)

  • 30% - Salaries & Benefits: $2.8 billion 
  • 24% - Services and Supplies: $2.5 billion (includes contracted services to meet service levels)
  • 16% - Other Charges: $1.5 billion (includes public assistance programs) 


The budget can also be categorized by the types of programs with the Community Service programs receiving almost 40% of the County’s budgeted appropriation. 

  • 39% - Community Services:  $3.7 billion
  • 19% - Infrastructure & Environmental Resources: $1.8 billion
  • 19% - Public Protection: $1.8 billion
  • 9% - Insurance, Reserves & Miscellaneous: $852 million
  • 8% - Capital Improvements: $759 million
  • 5% - General Government: $475 million
  • 1% - Debt Service: $214 million

The General Fund (GF) includes approximately $4.8 billion in appropriations, which is about half of the total budget for the County.   By expenditure category, over 80% of the GF appropriations are within the Salaries & Benefits (54%, $2.6 billion) and Services & Supplies (32%, $1.5 billion) categories. 

By programs, Community Services receives about 53% of the GF appropriations as shown below:

  • 53% - Community Services: $2.5 billion
  • 33% - Public Protection: $1.6 billion
  • 6% - General Government: $278 million
  • 5% - Insurance, Reserves & Miscellaneous: $218 million
  • 3% - Infrastructure & Environmental Resources: $143million


The table below shows the revenue sources for the entire County and those specific to the General Fund.

Revenue Source


Countywide ($9.5B)

General Fund


Intergovernmental RevenuesState, federal, local government revenues

34%,  $3.2B

50%,  $2.4B

TaxesProperty taxes, sales & use taxes

15%,   $1.4B

21%,  $1.0M

Other Financing SourcesIntrafund transfers (reimbursements) from other funds

12%,  $1.1B

11%,  $551M

Charges for ServicesFees collected for services rendered by the County

12%,  $1.1B

14%,  $660M

Fines/PenaltiesPenalties on delinquent taxes, fines, forfeitures

1%,   $97M

1%,  $43M

Miscellaneous/OtherInsurance, repayments, sales & miscellaneous revenue

26%,  $2.4B

2.5%,  $118M

The Public Protection program is the second largest program in the County and makes up 19% ($1.8 billion) of the county’s budgeted $9.5 billion appropriations, compared to 39% ($3.7 billion) for Community Services programs and 19% ($1.8 billion) for Infrastructure & Environmental Resources. The Public Protection program is a mandated function the County is required to provide and, in general, fund with General Purpose Revenue.  In comparison, the Community Services programs are generally responsible for carrying out programs on behalf of the state and federal governments and are thus provided state and federal funding to do so.    

Budget Adjustments

The budget development process provides what is believed to be sufficient appropriations for departments to meet their operational needs for the year.  The appropriations provided set the spending limit for the department which, per government code, shall not be exceeded.  Appropriations are monitored at the fund level and the General Fund is considered one fund for which there are 52 separate budgets maintained.   As one budget within the General Fund may exceed appropriations, another may come in under appropriations.  This typically is not known until the year-end closing process when expenditures are accrued for obligations incurred but not yet paid during the fiscal period.  Auditor-Controller is authorized to make any budgetary adjustments needed in order to properly close the fiscal records and seeks ratification from the Board of Supervisors in the Year-End Budget Report process.  Any expenditure that exceeds appropriation levels must be authorized by the Auditor-Controller’s Office. 

All departments may submit requests to adjust their budgets to add critical equipment needs not known at budget development time or to align estimated state or federal allocations with the known amounts.   Adjustments are included in the January Mid-Year Budget Report which is placed on the Board’s agenda for the last meeting in January.  Additional Budget Reports are done in September to reconcile to the year-end closing process and April to prepare for the year-end closing and address any appropriation issues identified with the departments’ year-end projections. 

Public Participation

Any member of the public may make comments during any budget items that are brought to the Board for approval and during the Public Budget Hearings.  At each Board meeting, the Chief Financial Officer or designee is present and the Budget and Finance Office monitors each Board meeting for relevant budget topics.  As a reminder, the Five-Year Strategic Financial Plan marks the start of the budget process in September through December and is the best time for the public to make comments in advance of the following year’s budget development process. The public may also submit comments directly to the Budget and Finance Office through the website at or via email at

All budget and strategic planning documents are available on the County’s website at the links noted below. In addition, the Citizens’ Guides to the Strategic Financial Plan and Budget are prepared annually and provide an overview of the County’s organization, budget process, and current initiatives. Further details, including economic assumptions and department details can be found in the Recommended Budget Book, the Annual Budget Book or Strategic Financial Plan.


Strategic Financial Plan:

A listing of Key Budget Terms is maintained and posted each year on the County’s website along with the budget documents. 


The most efficient manner to get a specific question answered is to submit it directly to the Budget and Finance Office through the website at or via email at