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Calaveras County Spending Outpaces Income

Calaveras County´s cash balance is negative $1.6 million, Auditor Linda Churches alerted the Board of Supervisors Monday.

“It will all work itself out in the end,” County Administrative Officer Tom Mitchell said.

The two´s differing views on the county´s budget and cash flow have led to some confrontations in the board room.

It seems Churches and Mitchell agree on the numbers, just not how they´re presented.

“I like what she´s doing,” Mitchell said about Churches and her department´s monthly update to the board. However, he added not showing “seasonal” expenditures such as a $1 million workers´ compensation payment, distorts the financial outlook.

“(Spending) won´t ordinarily keep up that high,” he said. He would like Churches to “break those numbers down more in the future.”

Other seasonal expenses include paying overtime to Sheriff´s Department employees who worked on the two recent fires, he said. There also are two months in the year when the county will have three pay periods instead of two, another seasonal expense, according to Mitchell.

“We can´t over spend,” Churches warned.

When asked what the consequences are, she said, “The main thing is we´re not bringing in enough cash to pay our daily expenditures. When your paycheck doesn´t cover your rent, then you have to borrow from your parents or something. That´s basically what´s happening,” Churches said.

The county began the fiscal year in July with $1.7 million in “cash carry,” cash that was carried over from the prior year. By the end of July it had negative $934,000. At the end of August it had negative $1.2 million and as of Monday it had negative $1.6 million.

In August, the board borrowed $1 million from the Solid Waste fund to cover operating expenses.

“We´ve already spent that,” Churches said.

“We´ll exercise restraint in our spending,” Mitchell said. “Like any person that´s running a business, you don´t make large expenditures until your revenues are in.”

The revenues Mitchell´s banking on are property taxes.

To help out, “taxpayers can pay their property taxes early,” Mitchell said.

Tax Collector Lynn Norfolk told the board she´s sending out property tax bills a little earlier this year, increasing the chance of early payment. Bills will go out Oct. 7 and 8 instead of near the end of October.

Churches said additional borrowing might be needed to get through the year, while Mitchell said it´s “too early to tell.”

“I anticipate borrowing another $1 (million) or $2 million again prior to December,” Churches said.

These loans would need to be paid back within 12 to 13 months, she said.

“When it´s time to pay back, we´ll have too make sure our spending permits our loan payment,” she said.

In March, Churches said, she would have a better idea of how the county would end the year.

“I can´t let the county end the year in a negative cash situation,” she said. “That´s the reason we monitor cash.”

Calaveras Enterprise story by Vanessa Turner. For more Calaveras news, click: calaverasenterprise.com