Supervisors approve a balanced budget
After a year of belt tightening, Plumas County is poised to adopt a balanced budget that returns reserves to historical levels, eliminates employee furloughs and puts money toward unfunded retiree health benefits.
“I want to commend the board and the department heads for getting the county back on track,” said Susan Scarlett, the county’s budget consultant. “I hear back from the public that they’re very pleased that you’re living within your means.”
Scarlett’s comments came during the Sept. 18 public hearing on the 2013-14 budget.
The public hearing, which could have lasted up to 14 calendar days, wrapped up in a couple of hours. The final budget is scheduled to be adopted during the Oct. 1 board meeting. By statute it must be adopted by Oct. 2.
Individuals representing tourism groups and a film commission asked the board for a portion of the $55,137 that had not been allocated in the 2013-14 proposed budget, as did Roxanne Valladao, of Plumas Arts, and Scott Lawson, of the Plumas County Museum, when they learned that there could be money to disperse.
“I didn’t make a formal request because I didn’t think there would be any money,” said Valladao.
She listed some of Plumas Arts’ accomplishments, from operating the county’s only movie theatre, to taking an empty storefront on Quincy’s main street and turning it into a gallery and gathering place.
“Except for Quincy Natural Foods (which now has expanded to Portola) we have the largest membership in the county,” she said. “We’re working very hard to make this a place people don’t want to move away from.”
Valladao asked the board for $5,000 for Plumas Arts.
Tourism and economic development
Karen Klevens, representing the Plumas County Tourism Council, gave a brief history of her organization and thanked the board for holding the public hearing.
“It’s terrific to try to eliminate furloughs and be supportive of county employees, but in the long run the county depends on the economy so there are taxes to collect,” she said.
Klevens described what could become a downward spiral that ultimately impacts property values and taxes, tourism and TOT (transient occupancy tax).
“We have so many talented and energetic people in our community who want to use the county’s natural beauty and unique character as an economic driver, but could use some support from the Board of Supervisors both financially and otherwise,” she said, and asked for $10,000 to implement countywide economic development workshops.
Audrey Ellis, the executive director of Eastern Plumas Chamber of Commerce, told the supervisors that her chamber and the others in the county were running out of brochures that had been provided by the now defunct Visitors Bureau.
She asked for $3,536.75 to reprint several brochures that she said were very popular with tourist throughout the county. Supervisor Sherrie Thrall suggested that the brochures be updated before they are reprinted.
Ellis also asked for $10,000 “or whatever money” could be available to support the chamber’s efforts to cater to visitors including becoming the official welcome center for the county.
Sam Jernigan, who appeared before the board in April, returned to ask for a two-year $20,000 commitment for Plumas to be part of a four-county film commission.
Jernigan explained the economic benefits of having a film crew work in an area and highlighted what the Hallmark Channel movie “The Christmas Card” meant to Nevada City in immediate revenue and in long-term tourism dollars as the movie is replayed and entices viewers to visit the city.
Though she had not been funded after making the April presentation, Jernigan had been working on behalf of the county and she discussed a Travel Channel series, “Hotel Impossible,” which planned to shoot locally, as well as other opportunities.
Despite her strong arguments for the economic advantages of having a film commissioner working on their behalf, the supervisors decided during the hearing not to earmark any money for that endeavor.
Supervisor Sherrie Thrall told her fellow supervisors that she was speaking as a member of the public when she asked for money for the recreation district in Lake Almanor. Supervisor Kevin Goss chimed in with a similar request for the recreation district in Indian Valley.
The county already gives the Central Plumas Recreation and Park District in Quincy $6,500. That money is part of a memorandum of understanding between the county and the district for the district to operate the county’s skate park.
Supervisor Jon Kennedy said he supported the idea of giving money to Lake Almanor and Indian Valley, but not Eastern Plumas. “Our district doesn’t serve the same purpose,” he said of the area he represents. “But I would support the other two.”
Kennedy said that the Eastern Plumas Recreation District is focused on the ski hill and a few thousand dollars wouldn’t help that effort.
“There’s other things they do,” Supervisor Terry Swofford said.
Ultimately the supervisors set aside $3,000 for each of the recreation districts, but want to see specific plans of how the money will be used. They also agreed to pay for printing new brochures to be divided among the four chambers, as Ellis requested.
The bottom line
Those decisions left roughly $42,000, which the supervisors earmarked for economic development and tourism, and told those who had made funding requests to return with more specific proposals.
However, during an interview the day after the budget hearing, budget consultant Susan Scarlett said that final figures were still being adjusted and she wasn’t sure that the money would still be available.
What does appear secure is the following funding:
Reserve: $2 million.
Contingency fund: $350,000.
Litigation fund: $150,000.
Retiree health insurance liability contribution: $126,147.
Professional services: $175,000.
New server for the information technology department and boardroom live streaming: $14,576.
In addition, the county is set to lift furloughs. The last furlough day will be Friday, Oct. 4.