Calaveras County supervisors Monday are set to consider spending more than $80 million during 2004/2005.
The auditor´s office reports the proposed budget has around a $500,000 deficit.
The deficit could have been larger but last Monday supervisors picked through a list of proposed fees and ended up adopting more than 100 of them, adding $354,681 in revenue.
Supervisors were meticulously cautious not to overburden the average citizen with hefty fees. Fee increases that were turned down included permits for bed and breakfasts, restaurants, bakeries and agricultural preserves.
Supervisors Lucy Thein said she sympathized with people in agriculture. The fees are too high, she said, and landowners are selling their land to housing developments.
“I do have a problem with some of the gigantic jumps,” Supervisor Victoria Erickson said. “It´s not fair that we didn´t increase our fees for 10 years. It´s not fair to catch them up all at once.”
Supervisor Paul Stein voted no to all of the fees. “I think it´s unfair to say, ‘We have a budget crunch and we´re going to raise fees,´” Stein said. “We´re asking the property-tax payers to float our boat.”
Despite reassurances from Tom Mitchell, county administrative officer, that the fee increases were not tied to the budget, Stein is against charging fees for services. “I find it fundamentally flawed to charge property taxes and then charge the rate of our employees for services,” Stein said. “That to me is double taxation if I´ve ever heard it.”
Stein expressed displeasure with county departments that didn´t make the 5 percent budget cuts they were asked to during preliminary budget hearings. “A lot of departments couldn´t meet that cut,” Auditor Linda Churches said.
“That´s unfair for those who cut,” Stein said. “Rather than cutting they´ve gone out and used revenue enhancements … like fee increases.”
Mitchell couldn´t be reached for comment, but at the close of preliminary hearings he said any deficit would be spread throughout all of the departments.
Before final budget hearings in September, supervisors are hoping the deficit will change.
The board is optimistic that revenues will come in higher than expected and that open positions would provide salary savings, Churches said. If not, supervisors will have an opportunity in September to draw down the deficit.
Calaveras Enterprise story by Vanessa Turner. For more Calaveras news, click: calaverasenterprise.com