CAO Riggs To Present Latest Budget Cuts At Special Session
Sonora, CA – At a special session the Tuolumne supervisors will attempt covering the county’s remaining $800,000 budget shortfall by deal-making with county employees.
The meeting, which had been scheduled for Tuesday, has now been moved to Friday due to concerns related to the Quarter Fire incident actively burning near Cedar Ridge.
Tuolumne County CAO Tracie Riggs tells Clarke Broadcasting that she encourages the public to follow the online meeting, which begins at 10 a.m. The phone line for comments is 209-533-6581.
Riggs says three of five bargaining groups are at the table and that two other with recently renegotiated contracts chose not to participate and were not obligated to do so. The shortfall she estimates will be bridged with vacation furloughs and a freeze on wage increases.
“We are balanced right now if everything falls into line,” Riggs states. “We would enter into next year with no contingencies but if everyone goes with what the assumptions are that are built into the budget we are balanced and ready to present on Tuesday.” She acknowledges it took a lot of cuts to get to this point; a combination of layoffs, frozen positions, and those furloughed during COVID-19, affecting 45 positions.
The hit to the county’s employment roster reflects what is happening around the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic during which county governments are pressed trying to provide services during a public health crisis that is also drawing hard on other services such as law enforcement, social services, and behavioral health. At the same time, people who were and perhaps are still not working, not spending money, cannot contribute much into the tax base that funds those services.
For example, she points to county road funding, which is already 40 percent less due to fewer sales and TOT taxes being pulled in. She acknowledges, “It is difficult to maintain services…because everyone is in crisis. We are stretched thin across the board and can’t keep up with the demand.” She continues, “As we saw coming out of the Great Recession, government [sector-wise] was the last to recover.” With a county payroll of nearly 700 local people, she points out related economic impacts are significant.
On a brighter note, Riggs offers, “I know there is a lot of questions we have been working very, very hard with our board to get some semblance of library services back…I know it has been a huge concern, and both for the board and myself as well.” Tomorrow’s board meeting during her budget presentation, she says, is a timely opportunity for people to participate with their comments to potentially help influence the board’s decision.