County begins budget hearings Sept. 3
Aug. 27, 2013 — Lassen County’s proposed budget for the fiscal year 2013-2014 shows a deficit of approximately $3 million, but that may change once all possible revenues are posted.
Budget hearings have been scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 3 and may go through Sept. 6.
The matter was discussed during a Tuesday, Aug. 20 meeting of the Lassen County Board of Supervisors.
Board chairman Jack Hanson and supervisor Bob Pyle have sat on a budget committee, which also includes county staff.
Hanson said, “This year has been especially challenging on the budget. Not necessarily just from a financial standpoint, we’ve had, the last four or five years, quite frankly, the county has been as some may term it deficit financing. Our revenues haven’t exactly equaled our expenditures.”
There will be an increase in retirement costs, significant capital needs and salary increases to help employees maintain their purchasing power and offset health insurance increases.
Some solutions may include one-time revenues, use of non-recurring revenues, reduce county reserves, putting less money into the reserves, which will help reduce the deficit but also the financial security, increase revenues and reduce operating costs.
“I think we are going to be able to do a good job internally to ratchet that down,” Hanson said. “We continue to have one-time monies in reserves that we can draw on as needed, but we’re going to have to try and close that gap.”
Hanson shared what he said is his personal opinion and that is the board may have to look at services provided to the community that aren’t mandated.
“These are things that the community is going to have to debate the values of those services and how they want to pay for them,” he said.
Pyle said there are budget items the county has no control of such as Assembly Bill 109, Public Safety Realignment — shifting the responsibility for incarcerating low-level criminals from the state to the counties. He said that will cost public safety a lot of money.
“With all this, keep in mind, I’m going to do the responsible thing for the voters of Lassen County and the taxpayers of Lassen County,” Pyle said. “The budget hearings, Sept. 3 through the 6, we’re going to sort all this out.”
In a separate agenda discussion, the board approved adding $200,000 as a line item for budget deliberations.
Supervisor Larry Wosick said he is looking forward to the weeklong hearings.
“There is a lot of work to do, but I’m confident that we’ll figure out a plan that works for the community, but I’m also looking forward to our list of items to deliberate,” he said.
Wosick said that includes not only each department’s budget request, but other things such as a swimming pool.
“It’s been said it is the number one unmet need in our community. I admit the timing of this is quite ideal,” Wosick said.
Of the budget, Supervisor Jim Chapman said, “It is also the single most, of all the votes the board casts in the course of a year, in the course of a board member’s term, the single most important vote that’s cast is our vote on the budget because the budget funds the priorities that we establish based on the representations we have of our various constituents and groups.”
The total county budget is estimated to be $87.7 million, according to Julie Morgan, assistant county administrator.
Including vehicle license fee money, the general operating fund is approximately $16 million. Carry-over money is also factored into the budget.
Chapman outlined the numbers and said, “It’s important to share these numbers …. part of the vetting process that we’ll do during the budget hearings is we’re going to validate these numbers. Are we under, are we low-balling our projections or are we overstating our projections? And that is something that has to be tested. And I guarantee every budget session setting that I’ve sat through in the last 35 years with the county, we’ve never come in with the exact numbers.”
He continued, “Yes, I would say the $3 million is something we have to take notice of, but are we done yet? Absolutely not.” Chapman said he would like to see $200,000 added as a line item for a swimming pool proposal.
Later in the budget discussion he said, “Now at the end of the day, come Sept. 6, or whatever the day is that we close up shop. I guarantee you that if it turns out we have $75 million worth of revenue and $95 million worth in expenditures and we’re $20 million upside down, there’s going to be a lot more than a swimming pool proposed that will be stricken from the budget. There would be a lot of other things.”
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