Despite more cuts, Plumas still facing shortfall

By Victoria Metcalf

Special to Plumas News

Despite some Plumas County department heads cutting their budgets to help balance the proposed 2020-21 fiscal year budget, there is still a shortfall of $4.5 million to the general fund.

County Administrator Gabriel Hydrick and County Auditor Roberta Allen were before the Plumas County Board of Supervisors earlier this week to discuss the county’s budget position before the October deadline.

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Despite unanticipated revenue to the Plumas-Sierra County Fairgrounds and Gansner Park for fire camp activities, and COVID-19 related funding, finances still fall short. Rental fees for the lease of the fairgrounds are estimated at $150,000. The lease of Gansner Park is estimated at $7,350. The county is waiting for a total for the COVID-19 Relief. That could be $700,000.

“When everyone turned in their budgets in June, the result was expenses greater than revenues by $5.6 million,” Allen recalled. This was “in spite of reductions made by several departments in those June budget requests.”

Since then departments have trimmed their requests. “Which brought us to the current expense greater than revenue amount of $4.5 million,” Allen said.

To finance the deficit to the general fund, the county needs to use all of its fund balance meaning cash that is available for the 2020-21 fiscal budget, Allen explained. This also included cash earmarked for other purposes. “We are hoping that the Coronavirus Relief Funding (CRF) from the Feds (disbursed by the state) will fill some of the deficit so that the general fund cash will not be entirely spent down by the of FY 20/21,” Allen said.

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During the second and third rounds of budget discussions, Facilities Services proposed reductions totaling $165,231 by abandoning the following projects for now: campground chain link fence, $25,460; Greenville Library roof, $38,450; Plumas County Museum heater, $29,475; reduced tree trimming, $20,800; new storage area chain link fence, $9,346; and a quarter-ton truck, $42,500.

Other changes to the general fund include: an increase in Senate Bill 854 (the Public Works Reforms that amended section of the education code) for Plumas Unified School District basic aid for 2020-21 adds $100,000; the county Treasurer sees an increase to the Administration Fee budget of $78,000; the repayment of an airport loan gains $22,000; an update to the IT (computers) salaries and benefits budget is $130,500; and miscellaneous increase and decreases for $88,207. The total changes, alone with proposed changes from the first budget discussions in June total $974,406.

“The guidelines for the CRF funding are still evolving, so the county’s budget will not include revenue from CRF reimbursements at this time,” Allen said about an unknown financial area.

“Property tax, sales tax and TOT (transient occupancy tax) have been budgeted conservatively because of the current uncertainty about the direction of the economy,” Allen said.

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But there is good news. The budget as it now stands included a $2 million General Fund Reserve. Another plus is the $4.4 million GASB 54 (Governmental Accounting Standards Board) set-aside for two months of general fund expenses and $250,000 contingency, Allen said.