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Calaveras County Scrounges For Cash

Barely two months into the fiscal year, Calaveras County officials have borrowed $1 million and plan to borrow $1 million or $2 million more before property taxes come due in mid December.

July 1 the county began its fiscal year with $1.8 million in the General Fund. The same month it spent $3.9 million, Auditor Linda Churches told the Board of Supervisors Monday during its public comment period.

So, last Tuesday $1 million was pulled out of the solid-waste fund to pay the bills, she said. In addition, “we also used $934,622 of our reserves.”

The board offered no response to Churches report.

“The General Fund balance is $67,745, which we could easily use in one day,” Churches said. “We anticipate borrowing more, but before we do, we have $700,000 that we can transfer from a designated fund,” she said.

For about three years the county has been setting aside $250,000 every year to offset rate increases in the Public Employee Retirement System, Churches said.

July was a typical month as far as expenditures go, she said. Except for an annual $1 million liability insurance payment. Churches also noted there were three pay dates in July. Each payroll costs about $600,000. For the most part, the cost of doing business is consistent with last year, she said.

During preliminary budget hearings, the board passed an array of money saving measures to help tighten its belt. Human Resources is negotiating furloughs and employees can take voluntary time off, Churches said.

“Most departments are astute enough to know when we´re having a cash flow problem,” she said. They wait as long as possible before submitting payments, avoid overtime, reduce extra hiring, curb traveling expenses, and take training in the spring instead of fall, she said.

Churches said she hopes when property taxes come due in December, the General Fund will be made whole. “When you base it on the growth we´ve experienced every single year for the past 10 years, it´s pretty reliable that the trend will continue for quite some time,” she said. “But even though some aspects are very good, our largest expense relates to employee costs, which are hard to reduce,” Churches said.

“Typically, employees get a raise every year. Employee raises and PERS costs are increasing at a rate higher than our main revenue sources,” she said. “In the mid ´90s we all went without raises for a year or two,” Churches said.

But the board has said, “It wants to keep all our employees,” she said. It also has a lot of plans for capital improvements, totaling $8 million, Churches said.

Capital projects include the District Attorney´s new offices, a new air conditioning system, animal shelter improvements and a court building remodel study, Churches said.

“Sometimes when you get low on cash you have to reassess your values,” she said. “The board could easily decrease investment in capital projects and not have to cut as much in our General Fund budget.”

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