Supervisors Want More Options To Reduce $1.6-million Shortfall
Sonora, CA — Tuolumne County needs to pass a fiscal year 2021-22 budget ahead of July 1st, and the current shortfall is estimated to be around $1.6-million.
CAO Tracie Riggs delivered a presentation to the board of supervisors that was much more upbeat than recent years. Referencing the deficit, Riggs says, “That is the smallest amount that I can remember us having to deal with in a very long time. It is because we are so lean and have been so conservative. But it also is a budget that has no concessions and no layoffs being recommended, and I’m really happy we were able to get there.”
The budget also reinstates about a dozen positions which were frozen last year. It also fully funds programs that were on the potential chopping block a year ago, like recreation, libraries, Standard Park and youth centers.
In order to close the remaining gap, CAO Riggs proposed postponing the hiring of vacant positions until October 1st ($500,000 savings), capping the contract with Visit Tuolumne County at $750,000 (currently pays 25-percent of TOT revenues – $1.3-million), eliminating a contract with the Tuolumne Parks and Recreation District ($100,000) and looking at using American Rescue Funds and existing fund balances.
Supervisor Jaron Brandon was the first to raise concerns about cutting Visit Tuolumne County’s allocation, stating that it is a “revenue generator” and could hurt the county long term.
Visit Tuolumne County CEO Lisa Mayo also voiced disapproval, adding, “We are now in the recovery phase of bringing back Tuolumne County’s vibrant and robust visitor economy, and it is not really time to talk about capping our funding.” She said it instead time to work together and support one another. Visit Tuolumne County markets and promotes the local tourism industry.
Supervisor Kathleen Haff also opposed the idea of reducing the visitors bureau funding, and spoke negatively as well about cutting the Tuolumne Parks and Recreation District contract.
Supervisor David Goldemberg acknowledged that things are looking better than past years, but noted he opposes using one-time funds to cover annual expenses, and requested a reworked proposal.
Board Chair Ryan Campbell was the only member who appeared mostly open to some form of Riggs’ proposal. He said, “These are never easy decisions, and there are never answers that will make everyone happy. Every decision we make is going to involve a cut or an addition at the expense of something else.”
Supervisor Anaiah Kirk was absent.
A consensus of the board directed Riggs to go back and look for additional options to cut.
Riggs said she will go speak with department heads in an effort to find reductions, whether they be across the board or targeted. However, she cautioned, “It will be dozens of hours for everyone to get there, for work, and I’m just going to say it, for work that I don’t think you are going to want to do. But, we will go through the process and I will have all of them submit to me what they would eliminate in order to reach the mark.”
She says the cuts initially proposed are what she considers “low hanging fruit” and would have the least impact on existing county services.
Riggs is planning to bring additional budget proposals back to the board on June 1st, with a likely approval of a new spending plan on June 15.