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County administrator ready to tackle new budget with a little help

New County Administrator Gabriel Hydrick will be allowed additional support in preparing the fiscal year 2019-2020 budget and then he’s on his own, relying on assistance from the auditor.

That was the decision reached by members of the Plumas County Board of Supervisors on June 11.

Hydrick approached supervisors with a contract to hire independent budget consultant Susan Scarlett for the new fiscal year. Scarlett has routinely assisted Plumas County Auditor Roberta Allen and supervisors prepare the annual county budget — before supervisors hired an administrator. Scarlett’s annual contract would not exceed $35,000.

But Supervisor Lori Simpson had other ideas. She explained to Hydrick and reminded others that when the board decided to hire an administrator, part of his salary would come from the elimination of the budget consultant. “I feel like you can do it,” Simpson told Hydrick, who was hired in February.

“I would echo what Lori is saying,” said Supervisor Sherrie Thrall. “We hired a consultant when we didn’t have anybody to help us.”

Thrall said she was against extending the consultant contract for a full year.

Hydrick was directed to estimate how much Scarlett’s fees would total through September and talk to her about the change. This is “nothing against Susan,” Thrall said. “We couldn’t have done it without her.”

Hydrick seemed to take the contract change in stride. “Good points,” he told supervisors.

Allen however had some concerns. The county is implementing a new software program that allows departments to input their own budgets, she reminded supervisors. This means this budget cycle will completely differ from those in the past, she explained.

In previous years there’s been a lot of manual effort on the part of the auditor and budget consultant to enter each department’s budget into the budget program. Each department will now have that task.

Supervisor and chairperson of the board Sanchez said he understood that Hydrick is new to the process. He added, “We’re running out of time this fiscal year.”

County Counsel Craig Settlemire said that Hydrick wouldn’t have to prepare a new contract to present to Scarlett. He just needed to change the fee and the dates so the contract ends in September.

Thrall said that she was uncomfortable with anything that said $35,000.

Supervisor Jeff Engel asked Hydrick if he was comfortable with the decision not to have a budget consultant for another full year.

“Mari is coming on,” Hydrick said about his department hiring the county counsel’s paralegal. He added that would free him up from some responsibilities so he could learn the new software program. It was announced that Mari Synder was leaving the county counsel’s office and joining the county administrator’s office.

Traditionally, the county administrative officer has prepared the annual county budget, followed by discussions, recommendations and approval by supervisors. For a number of years supervisors chose not to have a CAO and worked with the auditor and budget consultant in preparing the budget. Beginning this year, supervisors hired what they now call a county administrator and the budget is one of his chief responsibilities.

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