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County adopts final budget

Dan McDonald
Staff Writer

The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the 2011-12 county budget during its meeting Tuesday, Sept. 20.

After two months of cuts, concessions, changes and number crunching, the final budget was passed with little discussion by the board or members of the public.

“No standing ovation for that one,” Supervisor Robert Meacher said after the vote.

About the only thing worthy of applause was that the fiscal gymnastics are finally over. The finished budget was another testament to the tough financial times.

The budget, which totals $86,725,515 for all the county funds, includes 4 percent pay cuts for nearly all departments.

According to the final budget report from County Administrative Officer Jack Ingstad, there are 360 employees on the county payroll, down from 471 just five years ago.

Revenue estimates for the general fund budget are $21,969,901. That is approximately $1.6 million less than last year and $4 million less than when the local recession began.

Most of the reduced revenue is due to falling property values. The county’s assessed valuation was down 5.3 percent from last year. It represents the most significant decline of any county in the state, according to Ingstad.

The board juggled the numbers many times in the final weeks in an attempt to balance the budget.

Some of the late adjustments included changes in the proposed cuts to employees.

The 4 percent pay cut for general fund workers was originally set to be 10 percent cut through a furlough plan.

Under the furlough proposal, employees would have worked four nine-hour days with Fridays off. However, many departments fought to be exempt from the furlough plan.

After realizing that roughly only a quarter of the county’s employees would be absorbing cuts from furloughs, the board opted for across-the-board 4 percent cuts, with the exception of the sheriff’s office.

The 4 percent cut will come in the form of a reduced county contribution to the employees’ retirement plan.

The cut must be approved by the unions.

Another late change involved moving $1 million from the Mental Health Department reserves to help pay for anticipated health-related costs associated with AB 109 (state inmate realignment).

Before the final budget was passed, the county’s mental health director, John Sebold, warned that taking $1 million from the Mental Health trust fund could be a risky move.

“The purpose of that Mental Health trust fund is because we have enormous risk on the Mental Health side all by itself,” Sebold told the board. “It’s quite easy for me to depict an absolutely tragic scenario, in terms of catastrophic loss, and coming right back to the general fund.”


Title III funds

The supervisors approved an allocation of funds totaling $820,710 to three applicants for 2011 Title III, Secure Rural School and Community Self-Determination Act money.

The Plumas County Fire Safe Council and Plumas Corporation received a total of $120,000.

The county received $628,230 for the Firewise Program and the Community Wildfire Protection Plans.

The sheriff’s office received $250,000 for search and rescue activities.


New forest supervisor

Earl Ford was introduced as the new Plumas National Forest supervisor.

Ford, who began the local job Sept. 19, was most recently working for the Forest Service in Vancouver, Wash.

The Louisiana native said he has a great deal of experience in watershed restoration.

He has worked in Nebraska, North Carolina, Texas, Alaska and Puerto Rico.

“I’m sort of a career Forest Service kid,” Ford said. “I look forward to knowing a lot more about the issues here in Plumas County.”

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