Visitors bureau gets reprieve; county budget worsens
The Plumas County Visitors Bureau will stay in business for at least another three months.
But the county’s budget problems actually took a turn for the worse last week.
Plumas Corporation — the nonprofit organization that oversees the visitors bureau — dipped into its savings account to fund the bureau through September.
Plumas Corporation Executive Director John Sheehan said his organization used $37,500 of its unrestricted funds to keep the visitors bureau alive.
The visitors bureau, which has traditionally been funded by county general fund money, faced closure July 1.
The bureau was among the non-county organizations — including the chambers of commerce and economic development — that had their funding completely eliminated in the recommended county budget. The Board of Supervisors adopted the budget June 21.
Visitors Bureau Director Suzi Brakken said she wanted to ask the supervisors for temporary county funding at the board’s July 5 meeting.
However, the board is restricted from making budget amendments until a final budget is adopted, according to County Administrative Officer Jack Ingstad.
Sheehan said he hoped the county would restore funding to the visitors bureau in its final budget, and reimburse Plumas Corporation for the $37,500.
If that doesn’t happen “we would have to revisit it (the visitors bureau situation),” Sheehan said. “If we don’t have money, we will have to lay people off.”
The county’s budget hole actually grew deeper last week, according to Ingstad.
He said potential county revenue from the sale of Dame Shirley Plaza to the state evaporated last week.
Plumas County stood to earn about $1 million by selling the land to the state as the site for a new courthouse. But the state cut the money from its budget for the fiscal year.
“The state delayed the purchase,” Ingstad said. “It will still likely happen, but it won’t be this fiscal year.”
Ingstad said labor negotiations with the union over proposed pay cuts and insurance changes for county employees “were not going well.”
“The unions don’t think there is a problem,” Ingstad said.
Ingstad has told the Board of Supervisors for months to expect a $1.1 million budget shortfall in the general fund.
The county will not have accurate fund-balance numbers until the fiscal 2010-11 accounting is completed in August.
Ingstad’s recommended budget was laced with cuts to many county departments, including a 10-percent pay cut for most county employees.
The cuts would come from reducing the current 40-hour workweek to 36 hours. He projected the county would save roughly $400,000 by having most general-fund employees work four nine-hour days with Fridays off.
Ingstad said the county’s budget committee, which includes supervisors Lori Simpson and Robert Meacher, was scheduled to meet again July 5.
“We have to start looking at things differently,” Ingstad said. “When you see a problem, you have to react quickly. And we definitely have a problem.”
The state budget package approved by the Legislature on June 28 included more bad news for rural residents. Homeowners who are in CalFire State Responsibility Areas will have to pay a $150 fee.
The budget also zeros out any Williamson Act subvention funds, money the state used to reimburse counties for the loss of tax revenues on properties registered under the act.