Sept. 18, 2012 — Lassen County’s fiscal house is in good order — at least for now.
At its Tuesday, Sept. 11 meeting, the Lassen County Board of Supervisors approved a $101 million budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal year that is balanced and yet continues to provide funding for vital public safety services such as the sheriff’s office and the probation department.
Approving a balanced budget in the face of the daunting fiscal crises faced by our neighboring counties, the state of California and even the nation is a remarkable feat indeed.
While the Lassen County Board of Supervisors can take credit for providing the leadership necessary for this accomplishment, the balanced budget could only be achieved through the hard work of the county administrators, department heads, staff and the county employees themselves who have crunched the numbers, struggled with their individual budgets and found ways to continue to provide the same services to county residents with fewer and fewer resources.
While there are no employee layoffs this year in departments across the county — unlike recent developments in our neighboring counties — some savings have been obtained because new employees have not been hired when positions open due to retirement or attrition. The remaining employees on the job simply pick up that extra workload and move forward.
All across the county fewer people are doing more with less. Their commitment to the residents of Lassen County deserves our recognition.
Despite the balanced budget, the county isn’t out of the storm yet. Ominous clouds continue to gather on the horizon that may affect our county this year or in the future, and unfortunately many of these potential developments remain beyond the control of the board, the county administration and the dedicated employees themselves.
District 1 Supervisor Bob Pyle wondered if the budget was really balanced. By his reckoning, the county will spend about $1.75 million of its reserves and one-time funds this year.
District 2 Supervisor Jim Chapman said the use of those one-time funds is restricted for particular purposes, and in some cases he feared the funds might have to be returned to the state if the county did not spend them. Chapman said it was best to use that money and get it off the books. Pyle said he was still concerned about what will happen next year when those one-time funds are not available.
One of the biggest unknowns is California Governor Jerry Brown’s controversial proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot this November — Proposition 30. By Brown’s estimate, if the amendment passes it could generate an additional $9 billion annually through an increase in the sales tax rate and higher income taxes paid by the state’s richest residents.
If the bill does not pass, county planners look for cuts to county programs funded by the state such as health and human services. Those departments already are preparing for possible cuts to their funding should Proposition 30 fail and are trying to get out in front of that crisis.
The good news is — the county has a balanced budget for this year and county residents should continue to receive the services they expect the county to provide.
That’s a win-win for all of us.
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