County looks at tight fiscal year

The county is looking at a tight fiscal year, they said during the recent board of supervisors meeting where the board approved the 2017/2018 budget, including some projected layoffs and unfilled vacancies.

During the Tuesday, Sept. 11 Lassen County Board of Supervisors meeting, the supervisors unanimously approved the budget, which projected revenues at $112,226,728 and expenditures at $119,604,358.

“The budget is very tight and it has been a challenging year to reach a balanced budget.” County Administrative Officer wrote to the board. “Revenues and expenditures are as close to anticipated as expected and most do not plan for anything but the department’s basic needs for providing services.”

Egan continued, adding there would be checks at the mid-year,” he said.

“The recommended budget does not include salary increases for employees. Negotiations are ongoing. Department heads will need to monitor budgets very closely during the fiscal year and adjustments may be needed at mid-year.”

The committee, which includes the board chairman, vice chairman and county staff, asked department heads asked to reduce initial budget requests by an additional 5 percent.

“I appreciate the department’s cooperation and assistance in doing that,” said Egan. “That was done in many different ways, department by department … some through layoff, some through not filling positions that were vacant and some through other cuts.”

Some of the most notable aspects of this fiscal budget are projected layoffs and employee vacancies.

The budget funding plans for the layoffs — a .5 FTE position in the auditor’s office, a .5 position FTE in the collections department and a 1 FTE position in the district attorneys office —for mid-year.

There are also employee vacancy positions, where a vacant position is left unfilled, in a few departments supported by the general fund.

Moreover, Egan noted vacant positions throughout the year would be brought to county staff for review.


Budget highlights

In a memo, Egan highlighted the most notable aspect of the 2018/2019 fiscal year.

This year, public safety departments will see a very slight increase of 1.6 percent, bumping the general fund contribution up to just under $7.8 million, to last year’s roughly $7.65 contribution.

However, while there is a slight increase, Lassen County Sheriff Dean Growdon noted he brought budget requests just to maintain the status quo, but with a request of a needed admin sergeant.

“I appreciate the support, county admin was supportive of us this trying to reduce reductions, the hard part is our budgets are so big that small increases add up fast,” said Growdon. “It might look to someone reviewing our budget that we’re really adding services, we really are not. It’s going to be a challenge to stay within budget.”

He noted some areas of concern including dispatch, which has an increased call volume and the jail. He noted the county was working with Shasta county to house low-level offenders in the dormitory housing.

Other notable selections of the budget Egan highlighted include the change of funding for the Family Resource Centers.

Egan shared Lassen County Health and Social Services Director Barbara Longo found a new services contract where the three centers, in Westwood, Herlong and Bieber, will receive assistance, but pay rent and utilities.

For the Honey Lake Valley Recreation Authority, the budget includes contributions in the amount of $800,000 to support the pool, with the amount being transferred from the Tobacco Settlement fund to offset the expenditure.

Additionally, the county is cutting general fund contributions for the county fair by about $17,500 less, with the total amount at about $97,000.

There is also a contingency budgeted in the general reserve budget, in the amount of $200,000, which will require a 4/5 vote to spend.

However, the county’s recommended budget is balanced without a contribution from the general reserve fund, Egan wrote. The reserve fund for the 2018/2019 years has a projected ending balance of about $1.3 million.

Supervisor Aaron Albaugh asked Lassen County Auditor Diana Wemple about her comfort levels regarding the reserve budget and cash flow.

Wemple noted she would’ve liked to see at least $2 million in the reserves, again noting the “very tight” budget with cuts.

“With those cuts comes tight services or services that can’t be met,” Wemple said. “That is a consequence of our current budget, that there are services that are going to be tight, services that are going to be delayed … In order to get the work done, we need to have a workforce. If we don’t have a workforce, work gets put on the backburner.”

Lassen County Treasurer-Tax Collector Nancy Cardenas also stressed the cash flow and the decrease in services, especially in her collections department, where a layoff is projected.

The board unanimously adopted the resolution approving the 2018/2019 budget, thanking county departments and staff for putting together the budget, and noting there will have to be increased revenues.