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County budget comes into focus

Dan McDonald
Staff Writer
8/3/2011

It still isn’t a pretty picture, but at least it is a clear one.

Plumas County’s Board of Supervisors must find about $1.5 million in savings in the county’s fiscal 2011-12 budget before it is adopted on Sept. 6.

The $1.5 million figure became clear after the books were finally closed for the 2010-11 fiscal year, which ended June 30.

The county’s fund balance came in close to the $900,000 projected by county budget officer Jack Ingstad. However, the property tax revenue was about $400,000 short of the projections. That left a $1.5 million deficit.

Following are the cuts recommended by the county’s budget committee. These options were sent to the Board of Supervisors July 28, for its consideration during the board’s Aug. 2 meeting:

•Repeal board’s cost of living ordinance

•Reduce CAO, county counsel, and department heads compensation by 5 percent

•Adopt an ordinance reducing all elected officials’ salaries by 5 percent, to take effect after the next election term

•Eliminate the CAO’s $250 monthly car allowance and instruct him to take in-county travel reimbursement for meetings attended

•Instruct labor negotiation team to reduce all employee by 5 percent

•Reduce stipends

•Reduce Other Wages by 35 percent and hold in contingencies to be released only by the Board of Supervisors

•Cut all in-county travel by 25 percent and hold that money in contingencies

•Cut all out-of-county travel by 25 percent and hold 15 percent of that amount in contingencies

•Cut cell phone allowances by 50 percent

•Consider restoring cuts to arts, chambers, tourism, economic development if county receives revenue from the sale of county property.

•Increase support to resource centers to $58,080 and divide that money among the five locations

•Reduce general fund contribution to the sheriff’s department by $150,000

•A 25-percent reduction of a  position at Greenville library

•A 25-percent reduction of a  position at Portola library

•A 25-percent reduction of a  position at Chester library

•Eliminate code enforcement and move those responsibilities to other departments

•A 50-percent reduction in senior nutrition cook position

•Close records management

•Eliminate one full-time employee in risk management

•Eliminate one full-time facilities position

•Eliminate two full-time positions and the department head at the fair and move those duties with the intent to re-organize fair operations

•Re-organize public guardian

•Eliminate half a position at the museum

•Move grand jury fiscal work from CAO to county counsel

•Move animal control to sheriff’s department

•Combine Plumas and Lassen agriculture commissioner

•Eliminate wellness benefits of $5,963 for department heads

•Discuss support for three facilities in Chester

•Make immediate decision on future of the fair and fairgrounds

•Use up to $600,000 for reserves to support general fund contingencies and increase revenues

•Remove the $28,000 contribution for Community Development

•Stop all reclassifications that would increase expenditures without board approval

•Increase employees’ contribution to health insurance by $50 per pay period

•Eliminate use of county vehicles to and from work

•Reduce benefits for new hires

On Tuesday, Aug 2, the county’s budget committee planned to present a list of recommended cuts to the board.

Among the proposed cuts recommended by the committee, which includes supervisors Lori Simpson and Robert Meacher, are pay cuts for themselves.

The committee proposed the board take a 5 percent pay cut and repeal its annual cost of living increase that has been an ordinance since 2002.

At the same time, the board wants county employees to accept a 5-percent pay decrease. If the employee unions agree to the cut, it could take the form of a cut in salary, a cut in the county’s pension contributions, or a little of both.

Ingstad sent the committee’s suggested cuts to the entire board Thursday, July 28.

“I was happy with what they (the committee) did this morning,” Ingstad said after the memo was sent.

The county is already planning to use $600,000 of its $2 million in reserves to bridge the budget gap. That still leaves $900,000 to be made up through cuts.

The proposed cuts will affect nearly every county department, as well as non-county entities like the chambers of commerce, tourism, economic development and Plumas Arts.

It also included cuts, and possible reorganization, of the fair operations.

The proposed budget would reduce funding to the county’s libraries and museum.

The Sheriff’s Office would take a $150,000 cut.

The use of county vehicles and cell phones would be reduced and restricted.

 

Layoffs

The board has been delaying its decision on layoffs until the final budget numbers were in place.

Now that the figures are in, the budget committee has recommended several job cuts for the board’s consideration.

The cuts included eliminating two full-time positions and the department head at the fair.

Layoffs of a full-time employee were also proposed for the employee risk management, and facilities departments.

 

Property sale

Ingstad said the wild card is a potential sale of county property that could generate about $1 million in revenue for the general fund.

Dame Shirley Plaza, which is owned by the county, has been identified by the state as the site for a new county courthouse.

In June, the state said the sale would not happen during this fiscal year. However, Ingstad said the state has requested appraisals of the land.

He said that means the sale process is moving forward. Whether the money from the sale would be realized in time to impact the 2011-12 budget is yet to be determined.

 



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