County budget: CEO says don’t panic

Dan McDonald
Staff Writer

Plumas County’s Administrative Officer (CAO) delivered a preliminary balanced budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year to the Board of Supervisors last week.

“We are down to bare bones now. I’ve never seen it this bad,” Supervisor Lori Simpson said. “There is no fluff in this (budget).

The budget, which almost certainly will be adjusted before it is adopted, was submitted as a formality to the board before the July 1 deadline. The draft budget allows the county to continue paying its bills.

Plumas County CAO Jack Ingstad said it was a worst-case budget and advised people “not to panic.”

The budget crafted by Ingstad is available on the county’s website:

“This (budget) will change,” Ingstad told the board during its June 14 meeting, “because we will have to go through labor negotiations. We will have public hearings. The board will have budget committees; the board will have public hearings. So, don’t everybody panic.”

The preliminary budget included numerous cuts to many county departments, including a 10-percent cut in pay for employees.

“I got my direction from the board that my goal was to keep layoffs to a minimum,” Ingstad said. “And that’s what I’ve tried to do here. The way I did it was to move to a furlough system.”

Ingstad said his proposal of having most county employees work four nine-hour days with Fridays off would save the county about $400,000 per year.

“The union has indicated that employees in other counties seem to like it (four days with Fridays off). They have a hard time getting employees to go back to a full-time schedule once it happens,” Ingstad said. “The bad news is, it’s a 10-percent pay cut for everybody in the general fund, including many department heads.”

Ingstad told the board his budget didn’t include traditional funding for non-county organizations, including the arts, the chambers of commerce, tourism and economic development.

“(The county has) given about $389,000 to those groups in the past. At this time, with cutting employees’ pay 10 percent, I wanted to be sure there was additional money coming in — that we don’t anticipate — before we started restoring those type of things,” Ingstad said.

“I would caution everybody again by saying this is just a preliminary, recommended budget. And the board’s going to change a lot of this.”

The preliminary budget did not include any cuts to the county sheriff’s office. The district attorney’s office actually planned to reduce its budget by $29,000.

Ingstad said the budget includes enough money to keep the county fair in business, at least through September.

“But then we need to start thinking about inventing new ways of doing things out at the fair, because the state money and the local contributions probably won’t be there for hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Ingstad said. “There’s going to have to be some creative community nonprofit, county ideas.”


On the revenue side

Ingstad said the county’s fund balance is about $1.1 million less than it was last year.

He said the county is negotiating with the unions about changing insurance companies, which he said could save the county about $200,000.

“That’s all being negotiated with the unions right now,” he said.

Ingstad added that the county could dip into its $238,000 contingency fund and/or $1.9 million in reserves to balance the budget.

Supervisor Sherrie Thrall asked Ingstad how stable he considered his revenue projection to be.

“I think (the county) has taken its biggest property tax hit,” Ingstad said.

He said the state is projecting slight growth in the sales tax revenue as well.

Although Ingstad said it is hard to imagine things getting much worse, the supervisors are well aware that they face some agonizing fiscal decisions in the coming weeks.

“We are down to bare bones now. I’ve never seen it this bad,” Supervisor Lori Simpson said. “There is no fluff in this (budget).

“We are in a recession — a double-dip recession. We have 22 percent unemployment in our county. And we are supposed to take in prisoners (from the state) and give them jobs and housing when we can’t even get our own people jobs and housing.”


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