Yosemite, CA — In a cozy environment, sitting on couches in a circle and a burning fire nearby, the Tuolumne County Supervisors and department heads discussed their findings today from the past three day governance skills workshop at the Rush Creek Lodge on Highway 120 near Yosemite National Park.
It is an annual event, a board retreat, where the supervisors hear detailed updates over a series of days from department heads and put forward goals for the new year.
“Very good and focused while still covering a lot of subjects,” was the overview from Board Chair and District 4 Supervisor John Gray.
With the help of a facilitator, the group whittled down a long list of issues and came up with the top five strategic priorities to address over the next 18 months. Those include: increased staffing (Click here for video of the discussion regarding staffing), upgraded technology, improving facilities/infrastructure, planning and additional financing/funding. When asked by Clarke Broadcasting whether the latter could include a tax hike, Gray noted, “I don’t think anything is ever off the table. If we don’t have the staffing available we can’t provide the service to the people…We’re not going to be able to supply every staff request but we’re going to have to supply the key ones that will allow us to be more efficient. I can’t say that we are going to ask for a tax increase, that’s a very difficult thing to do and kind of a last resort.” (Click here for video of the group discussing top strategic priorities)
Gray adds that grants, along with maximizing staff and determining technology needs, can help with costs, and were some of the “next steps” discussed to implement these strategies. One key element noted was the fostering of economic development in the county. Gray points to the Rush Creek Lodge as an example of the way government can facilitate economic growth as in April of 2014 the county, through a $3 million state Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), was able to loan the money to the developer at just 3 percent interest over 20 years. Other targets are jobs and affordable housing. Regarding those, County Community Resources Agency Director David Gonzalves reports that things are looking up, “We’ve had single family dwelling permits go up. Our building permits are up, 15 to 20 percent, and that’s repairs, remodeling, new homes and commercial buildings. All of those things are indicators that there are people investing and they’re confident in the economy.” He continues to detail, “The planning department, we are seeing people come in to do projects, which is the precursor to construction, and those are up.”
Gonzalves adds that staff is buried in paperwork and they have to figure out how to do it “bigger, better, faster.” He sums up the retreat as a chance for the board to set a vision and direction for staff to better serve the public, stating, “Hopefully the public will see that we are an important, invaluable tool and what we’re doing so they will want to participate more and give us a chance to talk more while holding us accountable.”
County staff will compile a recap of the three day workshop and present the results at Tuesday’s upcoming board of supervisors meeting.