By Debra Moore
Plumas County has a preliminary spending plan for the 2023-24 fiscal year, with final adoption of the budget set for Sept. 29.
Debra Lucero, the county’s chief administrative officer, described the process and some highlights of the plan to the Board of Supervisors during a special meeting June 30, before the supervisors voted unanimously to adopt it.
“We have been working very diligently night and day to get some type of budget in place,” CAO Lucero told the board. Individual departments met with Lucero and Auditor Martee Graham to discuss their spending needs. For the past six years, departments have been rolling over their existing budgets, and some of those budgets contained mistakes. Lucero said that this year, departments “were encouraged to really look at their budgets instead of just rolling over.”
Lucero said that through the process she and the auditor learned more about each department and their needs and allowed them to be creative. She cited the example of an assistant librarian position that has gone unfilled. The workload of that position will now be divided over temporary employees. “How do we flexibly allocate when we can’t find people to fill positions,” Lucero said of the approach.
Lucero also addressed the need for a capital improvement plan — which seemed timely in light of the courthouse pipe leaks that caused the water to be shutoff last week, necessitating the installation of some portable restrooms. “Getting restrooms sent up from Sacramento – none of that is cheap,” Lucero said of the costs associated with neglecting infrastructure. She said that departments know when there are issues but have stopped asking for funds to address them because “they know it won’t be approved.”
District 3 Supervisor Tom McGowan said that it appeared Lucero was suggesting that the county be proactive rather than reactive. “Tell people to ask for what they need,” he said. “We are on a good path.”
The county will know more about its financial picture when it learns how much money is in its fund balance. Fund balance is important because it can be used to balance the budget, but the board needs to know how much is there to spend.
While staff has been working on the 2023-24 budget, there are three outside individuals that are helping to close out the books for 2021-2022 and 2022-2023. They are scheduled to work through the end of October.
Lucero will continue to update the board on the budget during meetings in July and August, with the final adoption planned for Sept. 29.