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Visit Tuolumne County Funding And Budget Talks Continue Into Afternoon

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Sonora, CA — Budget discussions are a highlight of today’s Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors meeting.

The board was planning to discuss the 2023-24 fiscal year budget, and the future contract of Visit Tuolumne County, at 9:30 am. However, board proclamations and other early items took longer than anticipated, so the budget talks commenced shortly before 11 am.

The most high-profile aspect is related to Visit Tuolumne County, which currently receives around 20% of the annual Transient Occupancy Tax revenues, totaling about $1.75 million. Earlier this year, CAO Tracie Riggs proposed gradually reducing the amount over the next five years, eventually falling to a set amount of $500,000.

Department leaders were allowed to weigh in first, came up one at a time, and talked about the impacts of recent cuts on their departments, and concerns related to maintaining their services. They also collectively voiced support for cutting the amount of money going to Visit Tuolumne County. They included Sheriff Bill Pooley, Probation Department Chief Dan Hawks, District Attorney Cassandra Jenecke, OES Coordinator Dore Bietz, Community Development Director Quincy Yaley, Health and Human Services Director Rebecca Espino, and others.

They acknowledged the benefits of increased tourism, but also stressed the extra strain more visitors put on the services they provide.

The discussion went into the noon hour and was cut off at 12:30 pm so that county staff could break for lunch. The meeting will pick up at 1:30 pm when members of the public can weigh in on the issue. Based on the large number of people at the meeting, it could be a lengthy comment period.

During the budget talks, there was also a debate about whether to continue to professional services contract with water expert John Mills in relation to the Tuolumne County Water Agency. Representatives from TUD and the Chicken Ranch Rancheria argued that the $32,500 contract is unnecessary, while leaders with the Groveland Community Services District and Twain Harte Community Services District stated that it is beneficial.