The county’s budget for the next fiscal year needs some help from reserves in order to go forward for the next year. The $15.8 million budget has at least a $2.6 million shortfall, even after cuts made by departments. If the budget passes, it will be up to the board to draw from reserve funds in order to make up the difference.
At the Plumas County Board of Supervisors’ meeting Aug. 21, county budget consultant Susan Scarlett walked the board through the current draft budget and fielded questions. The board also heard additional requests for funds from county department heads. The additional requests increased the shortfall by more than $210,000.
The additional requests included hiring a new Deputy County Counsel II position, at a cost of $111,650, and also increasing the District Attorney Legal Services Assistant’s salary for the first time in 23 years. District Attorney David Hollister explained that even though the assistants handle complex case documents, and sometimes deal with unruly clients and traumatic crime scene evidence, the position is paid significantly less than any other assistant position in the county.
Additional requests included new vehicles and equipment, and a new phone system, which would be offset with savings. The board will review all the requests and determine if they can include them in the budget.
One request that may not go through was made by the Facilities Department and concerned fire egress improvements to the fourth floor of the courthouse, which is the District Attorney’s department and office.
The fourth floor needs significant renovation to make the building fire safe, which includes an external fire escape stairway to be utilized in the case of an emergency. The total cost of the improvement is well over $1 million in the course of three years, which caused a drastic increase in the facilities budget. District 5 Supervisor Jeff Engel was not so sure the expenditure was needed.
“It is just something I don’t think we can afford,” said Engel, suggesting instead that the D.A.’s office move to a different area in the courthouse and use the fourth floor for storage.
“The challenge is that nobody wants to move,” said Kevin Correira, the county facilities director.
Engel suggested they continue the discussion, and that he meet with the facilities department to see what the best option might be.
The board will continue to review the budget for the next fiscal year, and is expected to vote on it at the next board meeting Tuesday, Sept. 4.