Plumas County has a budget for 2017-18, but it wasn’t unanimous.
The supervisors voted 3-2 on Sept. 19 to approve the $104 million spending plan, which required $2.4 million from reserves to balance.
Supervisors Lori Simpson, Kevin Goss and Mike Sanchez voted yes, while Jeff Engel and Sherrie Thrall voted no.
Following the vote, Simpson turned to Engel and Thrall and asked, “What did you want us to do?”
“I think it would have been prudent this year to go ahead without a CAO (county administrative officer),” Thrall said. “I don’t think we can do it for $130,000.”
That figure, which is included in the budget, is earmarked to pay the salary of a CAO for half of a year (assuming that it would take time to fill the position) and was intended to cover supplies for the office.
Simpson responded that she has seen some creative ways to make it happen, but, if the position weren’t filled, the money would return to the county’s fund balance.
Engel objected to a budget that included more expenses than revenues and required taking from the county’s reserve to balance it.
“I’m still not happy with this budget,” he said. “What do we do next year?”
Susan Scarlett, the county’s budget consultant, agreed with Engel that it’s not a good idea to spend reserves on ongoing expenditures such as salaries, and said that she and Auditor Roberta Allen would be working on a five-year plan so the supervisors could begin thinking in terms of multi-year budgeting as they make their weekly decisions.
She also reminded the supervisors that the county is in a much better position than it was five years ago. “You’ve taken the county from a bleak financial picture to a relatively healthy one,” she said.
Some of the components of the new budget are:
– $130,000 for a CAO for a half-year with no assistant.
– $250,000 for the county’s contingency fund
– $150,000 for possible litigation
– $300,000 for new software
– $400,000 for the boiler project at the health and human services building
– $380,000 for facilities projects
– $4,000 for Sierra Valley Ground Water District
The budget also included additional funding for a new employee, the law library and senior nutrition.
Scarlett and Allen have been working on the budget since April. They, along with Supervisors Simpson and Engel, began meeting with each of the departments soon after. The process began with last year’s budget as a baseline, and they considered requests from the appointed department heads and elected officials that were in addition to last year’s amounts. Many of the requests — such as new vehicles — were not funded due to budget constraints.
The budget also did not include raises for the six elected officials and cost of living adjustments for appointed department heads.
Some departments’ allocations from the county’s general fun were greater than last year, but that was largely due to increases in salaries and benefits.
Reached for comment after the final budget meeting, Board Chairman Simpson said that she is looking forward to a smoother process next year and she thinks that can be achieved by being more “proactive throughout the year.”
That is one of the reasons why she supports the idea of hiring a CAO. “I think we really do need a CAO or budget person to look at this all year,” she said. “Some things should be done well in advance.”
Simpson thinks it’s valuable, as a supervisor to meet with all of the departments, but said this year the process seemed to be more difficult than in years past. Rather than starting off the process with a multi-million dollar shortfall, Simpson said the board could be looking at ways to save money year round.