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Letter to the Editor: About county revenue

 

For the past several years there have been frequent expressions of concern, frustration and, in some cases, outright anger regarding Plumas County constraints on expenditures for important services.  An adversarial relationship sometimes emerges with Plumas County department heads in one camp, the Board of Supervisors in another, and citizens in a third.  Harsh words and finger pointing have become commonplace.  But if you pause for a moment, take a deep breath, and look at the spending proposals, it’s really hard to fault the proponents for wanting to increase spending on what they view as essential County functions.  There’s not a lot of frivolous items involved.

Looking in from the outside, our primary problem does not appear to be what the money is spent on.  It’s a general lack of money.  The County has been on a starvation diet for quite some time and the lack of revenue has become more than simply painful.

County finances weren’t always this way.  A principal cause of our lack of revenue is the fact that the vast majority of Plumas County is federal land that is not subject to property tax.  Of course, that has been the case for well over a century, but in the “good ol’ days” of the 1970s and early 1980s the County received a substantial percentage of the profits made by federal land managers from timber sales on National Forest lands.  Changes in national policies dried up that source of revenue, placing Plumas County (among others) in a financial hardship condition.

When you combine the impact of reduced timber sale revenue with the loss of tax revenue from burned out properties from the Dixie Fire, the decline in County revenue is significant.  But our needs didn’t diminish.  We still have the same large area, the same number of miles of roads to maintain, schools to operate, services to provide.  And after Dixie destroyed two complete communities we now have unexpected recovery needs on top of it all.

There really is no surprise that the County is facing extremely difficult financial challenges.  And there should be no surprise that the tension of trying to balance needs with resources has placed County department heads and the Board of Supervisors In a contentious mood.  Neither group caused this problem to exist – it was handed to them by forces beyond their control.

But there are two things that the citizens of Plumas County have a right to expect from both the Board of Supervisors and County staff:

(1)     An honest attempt to work together, as a team, to do the best possible job with the resources available, accepting that nobody is going to be happy with the compromises that will be necessary; and

(2)    A serious investigation of innovative means and methods of increasing revenue, including some hard lobbying of the federal government for some reasonable and reliable compensation for providing the infrastructure that surrounds National Forest lands.

Sincerely  –   Dale Knutsen

Lake Almanor

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