Board begins budget talk; Process to mirror last year’s work

  Plumas County employees will continue to work four nine-hour days — at least that’s the assumption county supervisors will begin with as they start the next fiscal year’s budget process.

  During the board’s April 9 meeting, the county’s budget consultant, Susan Scarlett, said that she and county Auditor Roberta Allen were beginning to work on the 2013-14 budget and wanted direction.

  In addition to budgeting for the 36-hour work week, the initial document won’t include funding for a county administrative officer.

  Supervisors Sherrie Thrall, Terry Swofford and Jon Kennedy immediately agreed that they didn’t want to fund that position, at least initially.

  Additionally, the supervisors want the budget workshops and hearings to be conducted in front of the full board, as they were last year.

  Historically, a committee headed by the CAO conducted the budget workshops, but in the absence of that position, the supervisors decided to forego that practice so that they could better understand the county’s budget and each department’s functions and spending.

  The supervisors also discussed the need to begin funding retiree health benefits.

  Supervisor Thrall suggested that the non-general fund departments, such as social services and public health, begin the process.

  “This would at least start building it,” Thrall said referring to the account that the county has set up to pay for the benefit, but has not funded to date.

  It’s recommended that the county set aside $1.7 million annually to pay for retirees’ health care, but that hasn’t happened.

  “We have talked about doing it by department,” Auditor Allen said.

  In that scenario, each department’s portion of the liability would be calculated.

  “It’s a debt we owe,” Thrall said.

  “And it continues to grow,” Allen added.

  Budget worksheets will be provided to department heads in early May and they will have a couple of weeks to respond.

Social services budget

  During last year’s budget process, the supervisors decided it would be educational to also review the budgets of the departments that receive the overwhelming bulk of their funding from state and federal sources.

  During the April 9 meeting, the supervisors met with Social Services Director Elliott Smart and he provided an overview of his department.

  The total social services budget is $7.4 million with state revenue accounting for 41 percent, federal revenue for 36 percent and realignment monies for 21 percent. Realignment shifted responsibility from the state to the county for social service programs and dedicated a one-half cent sales tax to the counties to pay for the shift.

  “It has been a stable source of revenue,” Smart said.

  Last year the department paid nearly $1.3 million in CalWORKs cash assistance payments and $2.46 million in foster care payments.

  The county’s food stamp assistance has increased over the past several years.

  “This safety net program has gone up significantly,” Smart said. In 2006 the county paid $59,162 in food stamps, but by 2011 the number reached $208,507.

  He added that the poor economy has brought in people who in the past never needed to ask for assistance.

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