A $2.4-million deficit is the weeklong topic of budget hearings that started Monday for the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors.
The reason for the red ink is the growing cost to pay employees, Tom Mitchell, county administrative officer, said.
Cost-of-living increases, raises, worker´s compensation and health and retirement benefits compound the problem, Mitchell said.
Also included in the $2.4-million deficit is a $367,257 reduction in state funding.
This year, 2003-04, the county intentionally spent $2 million of its $3.5 million cash carry over or reserve on employee costs, Mitchell said.
For the 2004-05 budget, the county will have $1.5 million cash carry over, which Mitchell said, will again be shrunk by employee costs. “I think we can make this year work, but next year (2005-06) will be critical,” he said.
Mitchell has come up with a proposed budget of $83,618,906, of which $31,330,651 is for the general fund.
Mitchell has asked departments to reduce their budgets by 7 percent. Departments will have to figure out how to work smarter, harder and faster, Mitchell said.
From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. all week, departments will present their budgets to supervisors in the Cheesebourgh Room of the Main Library in San Andreas.
Mitchell´s budget includes a number of “solutions to keep the ship afloat.”
To eliminate the deficit, supervisors would have to approve all of or a combination of Mitchell´s proposed solutions.
Supervisors approved two of those solutions Monday.
The board decided to keep interest earnings from various county accounts in the county´s general fund. The latest figures show the savings to be $75,000.
Also approved Monday were new and increased fees for various county services for a savings of $50,000.
Another more controversial set of fees will be considered June 21 and is expected to earn the county $300,000.
Other possible solutions include:
Rewriting a recently passed hiring freeze to say, “All positions that are requested to be filled after July 2004 will require a one-quarter or seven pay period delay from the date of termination of the existing employee.” With this change, the general fund would save $533,995.
Another solution is to use $385,836 of its Teeter Fund to pay the state for what an audit said it owes in child support funds.
Reducing contingencies from 3 to 2 percent would save the county $304,181.
The county could use $422,454 of its Land Use Trust Fund to pay for the general fund´s portion of the Planning Department budget.
One year of Tobacco Settlement money, which usually goes toward the county´s capital improvement projects, would give the county $450,000.
A mandatory five-days off for all county employees would save $330,439.
A freeze on hiring extra help or part-time employees would save $35,376.
A 4-percent increase in the Transient Occupancy Tax would get the county $93,261 and would require voter approval.
A six-month delay for new employee raises, which would coincide with the end of probationary periods, would save $118,000.
Supervisors will discuss these solutions all week and make recommendations for a proposed budget, which they will consider on June 28.
Calaveras Enterprise story by Vanessa Turner. For more Calaveras news, click: calaverasenterprise.com