The Supervisors will consider the county’s finances during budget hearings scheduled in Bridgeport and Mammoth next week. Proposals include substantial increases in the budgets of the Supervisors themselves, the Finance Department, and the Probation Department.
Despite the 11% increase in the tax roll value reported by Assessor Jody Henning, the proposed budget shows the county’s General Fund revenues declining by 4% over last year to $34 million. The drop was driven by substantial losses in intergovernmental revenues, as well as the loss of surplus county property sales that bolstered last year’s General Fund.
Department expenses, however, are not declining. With the exception of the Clerk-Recorder, County Counsel and Public Defender Departments, all county departments are proposing increased budgets, some of them quite lavish.
Surprisingly, the budget of the county’s Finance Department led by self-proclaimed fiscal conservative Brian Muir is proposed to increase more than any other department – by 53%. A large portion of that increase reflects funds set aside to cover potential liabilities stemming from a decade-old property tax collection issue; but once eliminated, the budget still grows by 20%.
The second largest increase goes to the Probation Department, seeking a 45% increase. This is especially noteworthy in light of the fact that the department just received a startling 100% increase in last year’s budget. The 2006/07 actual budget was $458,000. This year’s proposed budget is $1.3 million.
The Board of Supervisors are third, proposing a 42% increase in their own budget. The increase reflects in part a salary increase they voted themselves last year, and a new fuel/vehicle line item in the amount of $56,000.
The remaining departments list varying increased expenses, for a 16% countywide increase.
The increases in department expenses do not reflect staff increases, of which there is also no shortage. Under policy items, nearly $2 million in new staff is being requested from a variety of departments, with Public Works alone requesting $1 million as part of a major revamping of that department’s service potential.
The Supervisors will hear from department heads next week to consider individual department budgets, and to make decisions on policy items including increased staffing levels, and county infrastructure improvements.