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County continues to narrow budget deficit

Dan McDonald
Staff Writer
8/29/2012

The Board of Supervisors continued to chip away at the county’s daunting budget deficit last week.

Under the direction of acting budget officer Susan Scarlett, the supervisors closed the gap by more than $150,000 during a pair of budget workshops.

There is still a long way to go if the county expects to balance its budget without tapping its shrinking reserve account.

The deficit, which stood at $3.4 million a couple months ago, was just under $1.6 million after Friday’s session. The budget gap was about $1.9 million when the workshops began Aug. 14.

The workshops are scheduled to resume this week. The final workshop is planned for Wednesday, Aug. 29.

However, Scarlett said county department heads should be prepared for another round of workshops in the coming days.

Scarlett and the supervisors have examined more than half of the county’s departments during the line-by-line budget workshops.

The supervisors said the next round of cuts likely would be more dramatic.

Some of the cuts and changes agreed to last week included implementing four nine-hour-per-day workweeks for the county’s information technology and agriculture department employees. Many departments have agreed to the reduced hours.

The facility services department was directed to increase the Taylorsville campground fee to $24 over the next two years.

The Chester and Gansner parks will open from May through September — a reduction of two months.

Fees for adult usage of county ball fields are likely to be increased.

During Friday’s workshop, cuts were identified for the clerk recorder, elections, records management, public guardian, veterans services, senior nutrition, farm advisor and probation departments.

Chief Probation Officer Sharon Reinert told supervisors her department was already short of staff, including probation officers.

“I’m one person,” Reinert said. “I can’t be the chief and do all of my administrative duties, be a supervisor, be a training officer ... I’m writing pre-sentence reports. I can’t do it all. I need staff. It’s a simple fact. I’m killing myself trying to do it all and things are not getting done.”

She said the probation department, which has been financially stressed by the AB 109 inmate realignment, could be forced to ask for more money from the county’s general fund.

The board was likely to hear similar arguments from other public safety officers when it reviewed the sheriff and district attorney budgets Monday, Aug. 27.

The sheriff’s department currently has 10 unfilled deputy positions. The Plumas County Grand Jury recently recommended the county spend additional money to help improve conditions at the county jail.

In addition to essential public safety departments, the board was also expected to examine three county services that are considered “non-essential” Monday: the museum, county fair and library.

The supervisors cut $165,000 during the first two workshops Aug. 14 and 17.

Although more than $300,000 had been cut after Friday’s workshops, the supervisors realized another round of cuts would be needed. The board has used the word “surgical” to describe the cuts they will need to make.

 


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