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County Budget Passed With Few Changes

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It took less than seven hours for the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors to unanimously approve the 2002-2003 county $94.165 million dollar budget Tuesday. It is the first time in recent years the budget has been approved in only one day.

County assistant auditor Deborah Russell credited the minimal number of changes for the swift passage Tuesday.

Supervisors spent the bulk of the afternoon scrutinizing budget line items and asking clarifying questions of county administrator C. Brent Wallace and staff.

Even though Tuesday´s Tuolumne county budget hearing went swiftly and smoothly, Wallace was asked by the supervisors to help present future budgets in easier to interpret ways. He agreed to explore that possibility.

“We are going to try and publish a ´people friendly´ budget,” Wallace told the supervisors Tuesday afternoon. “We´re going to take some of the big issues and big categories and see if we can´t publish something that´s a little more easily understood.”

Among the notable changes in the adopted budget is the elimination of a proposed TOT bed tax cap; a $50,000 increase in funding to the Central Sierra Arts Center; and $10,000 allocated for the county´s general funds to cover the Mother Lode Round-up rodeo and next year´s state fair exhibit.

Supervisor Dick Pland said wants to see the various community organizations, such as the Economic Development Company of Tuolumne County, the arts council and the film commission held accountable for the money, producing a record of spending and activities that justify the funding.

“We´re looking for a business plan that shows where the money goes,” Pland said. “Whatever the group, we´re looking for accountability and milestones, and when those milestones are reached then we open the treasury.”

Wallace says the new county budget will most likely be modified in three or four weeks after the California State budget is finally passed sometime this week.