Supes approve budget for 2020/2021 fiscal year

Had the Lassen County 2020/2021 budget been approved earlier this summer, the numbers might have looked drastically different and “draconian” decisions might have been made; however, with the budget approved by the Lassen County Board of Supervisors Tuesday, Sept. 29, the numbers are much more favorable.

“We delayed a lot of the budget work later because had we had to make decisions based on what the projections were two months ago, we would have had to make some really draconian cuts to the budget. Fortunately, those estimated fund balances that we got last week were much more favorable than that, so that’s going to help us avoid some real difficult decisions this board would have to make,” said County Administrative Officer Richard Egan.

During the meeting, the Lassen County Board of Supervisors unanimously adopted the budget for the fiscal year.

The 2020/2021 budget includes projected revenues of $113,764,876, with projected expenditures of $125,292,985.

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“Obviously, there is a difference there,” Egan noted. “That difference can be accounted for with a couple of large items. Some of the appropriations are appropriations for projects where the money had been received and is in the fund balance prior to the closing year. As an example, I think there’s a couple million dollars of road project where the money is sitting there … there’s also the CARES money… where we are receiving this one time money and it has to be spent this year.”

While there are no layoffs due to the budget, departments were asked to calculate their best estimate of vacancy savings, and some vacant positions, mostly in public health, will not be filled. According to Health and Social Services Director Barbara Longo, the eliminated positions in the department were some hard to fill mental health and alcohol and drug positions. Egan said the budget reflects no salary increases for the 2020/2021 fiscal year.

During the meeting, Egan presented the board with a memo detailing a summary of the budget.

In this budget, the contribution from the general fund to public safety remains the same as the year before, at $7,710,670; however, that’s not the extent of the funds going toward public safety. Egan said a large portion of the CARES funding, which is the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, is budgeted to support public safety.

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The budget also saw some increased revenues from hemp and marijuana taxes. According to the budget memo, the general fund includes estimates of $5,000 from the hemp tax and $180,000 from the marijuana tax, which includes about $125,000 in revenue from the planning and building division through code enforcement efforts and abatements of illegal grows.

“Hemp and marijuana is somewhat of a bright spot in the budget,” said Egan. “We experienced some decent revenue from both hemp and marijuana and those are projected to continue into 2021 and beyond with the opening of the first distribution center in the county.”

The CARES money also helped with this year’s budget. Although only one time funds, the board approved a budget appropriation of $450,000 for COVID-19 related expenditures for the 2019/2020 fiscal year, but also had recommended expenditures of $800,000 for salaries and benefits, $400,000 in services and supplies and $660,837 for COVID-19 related building improvements to the Lassen County Adult Detention Facility. The expenditures from this funding must be from March 1 to Dec. 30 of this year, and the state may request the county return unspent funds by Oct. 30. According to Egan, the county received about $2.95 million from the CARES Act.

Other information from the budget memo detailed $162,138 from the general fund going to the fair budget — an increase of $57,138 from the year before. This increase is largely due to the lack of a fair this year, Egan said. However, some of the fire camps hosted at the fairgrounds helped recoup some funds.

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

Overall, according to the budget memo, “the recommended budget is balanced without a fiscal year contribution from the general reserve, which has a projected ending balance of $1,288,401 for 2020/2021.”

The Lassen County Board of Supervisors held the public hearing during the Sept. 29 meeting, and voted unanimously to adopt the 2020/2021 budget.