W.C. Fields is credited with saying that entertainers should “Never work with children or animals” because they will steal the show.
The famous early 20th century comedian’s movie persona heaped abuse on children and dogs in a quite politically incorrect manner.
Well, the kids stole the show at the Plumas County Board of Supervisor’s meeting June 6.
Quincy Elementary School teacher Helene Lemnah brought her fourth- and fifth-grade government class to the board meeting to show them how county government works.
Lemnah grew up in France and was influenced by her mother who was a member of the French Resistance to Nazi occupation during World War II to teach students to participate in their government.
Two of Lemnah’s students, Macy Peay and Simone Smith, stood at the microphone and told the board about problems they saw in the county.
Macy Peay said she noticed that bus passengers in front of the Safeway in Quincy didn’t have a bus stop to wait in. She said that the passengers had no protection from the weather and had to sit on the curb. She told the board that this problem had gone on for months and noted that the weather was getting hotter.
Pubic Works Director Bob Perreault, who was present at the board meeting, responded that the problem would be solved this summer. At an earlier meeting, Perreault noted that construction of the concrete pad for the new bus stop would have to wait until the ground dried out from winter rains.
Simone Smith then pointed out that Quincy needed a convalescent home for its elderly to replace the one that was closed. She said that elderly patients had to leave town for care and sometimes have a hard time getting up the hill to the convalescent homes in Portola or Reno.
Board President Lori Simpson had visited the students in their classroom and invited them to come to the board meeting.
After the students left, Simpson said, “It’s always a bright spot in our day to have these kids visit.”
Randy Hicks, plans examiner with the building department, asked the board to hire West Coast Code Consultants to review building plans for the county for the next two weeks and as needed.
Hicks started his presentation by saying that he was doing the jobs of two people. The director of the building department has retired and Hicks, who has only been in his position for a month, said he is the only plan examiner in the department.
The department was 30 days behind in reviewing plans, Hicks said, and the county has a very short construction season for people to work.
There are 35 building plans to be reviewed, including a Dollar General store in Greenville, and Hicks said wanted to use West Coast “to get ahead on the plans.”
Supervisors Simpson, Kevin Goss and Michael Sanchez were for the idea. Simpson said this was needed to “get these projects going and people to work.” Goss said, “A little kick start would be good.”
Supervisor Jeff Engel was concerned that the department was giving away 65 percent of the money that developers pay the county for getting their plans reviewed. Supervisor Sherrie Thrall said that she was in favor of eventually getting all the building reviews done by private companies.
Thrall and Engel voted against the measure. However, the resolution passed on a simple majority.
After they voted, Hicks said, “I have only been in my position for one month; I was only trying to get things going.”
The building department had an on-call contract with Interwest Consulting Group for reviewing building plans in the past.
Hicks said he would like to change the contract to West Coast Code Consultants because he knows the owner and is more familiar with its work. He told the board that West Coast could get the first plan back to the county in 10 days.
County books audited
Norm Newell, certified public accountant from Smith and Newall, performed an independent audit of the county’s 2015-2016 fiscal year financial books, as required every year by state law.
Newell told the board that he could give the books an “unmodified clean report,” meaning that he certifies that the numbers are accurate.
Newell said the county’s fund balance was $11 million. The fund balance was up 19 percent from the 2014-2015 fiscal year.
This rise in the county’s fund balance represents a one-time $1.3 million in past supplemental tax revenue from the state. The county had previously been keeping this $1.3 million in a separate account.
The county has $2 million of its $11 million fund balance in a reserve fund. The state recommends that counties have reserves equal to 30 percent of their annual expenditures. Plumas County has 32 percent.
Newell warned the board that the county’s net pension liability, at $37 million, was up 10 percent from the previous 2014-2015 fiscal year. He said this was three times the rate of inflation.
Newell added that the county’s retiree health insurance costs, at $2.5 million, were up 30 percent from last fiscal year.
The California employee investment fund, CalPERS, is not bringing in as much money over the past few years as it did earlier. CalPERS has had to lower its discount rate, the income it can claim from its investments.
The difference between what the county owes in pensions to its employees after retirement versus the amount of investment income currently coming in via CalPERS has to be made up by the county.
The county can expect a very large rise in its pension liability through 2022.
The county needs to put a lump sum payment into its pension fund due at the end of July, just into the next fiscal year. The county is hoping to pay the entire lump sum. If the county doesn’t pay the entire lump sum when it is due, the amount due would rise by 10 percent.
Newell said that rising pension liabilities were a big problem all over the state and the nation.