Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Humboldt County Board of Supervisors approves budget, grand jury report response

Donna Tam/The Times-Standard
Posted: 06/23/2010 01:30:09 AM PDT

The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors approved the county's budget for the next fiscal year Tuesday and instructed staff to further explore the impacts of proposed state and federal budgets.

At Tuesday's meeting, the board considered support for a state budget titled “California Jobs Budget,” proposed by Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, which borrows from the state's Beverage Container Recycling Fund and repays debt through a new tax on oil severance.

The supervisors instructed staff to create a response that would weigh in on parts of the bill rather than support or oppose it.

Third District Supervisor Mark Lovelace said this may be an opportunity for local government to provide input to its representatives.

”I'm seeing this as an opportunity to provide some feedback on specific elements of this proposal rather than a thumbs up or a thumbs down,” he said.

According to staff, the additional revenue could save the CalWORKs program slated for elimination by the governor, provide repayment for mandated reimbursements owed to local governments and fund community mental health services that were expected to be reduced under the governor's plan.

But the staff also cautioned that the proposed budget would create a bigger gap in the following fiscal year, and it would result in a shift of responsibility to counties, including a transfer of state prisoners to county jails for state prisoners sentenced to terms of less than three years.

Department of Health and Human Services Director Phil Crandall, who has been meeting with the California State Association of Counties in Sacramento regarding the budget, said he is concerned over the shift in responsibility. He supported the county taking its time to see how the proposed budgets develop.

”This is a very dangerous time, and from my perspective, slower is better,” Crandall said.

State and federal sources account for more than two-thirds of all revenues included in the county's adopted 2010-2011 budget.

The roughly $303 million budget includes 15 percent cuts for most departments and a reduction in the contingency reserve to restore proposed cuts to the UC Cooperative Extension, the Office of Emergency Services and the grand jury. The contingency reserve will be set at $893,785.

The general fund's expenditures total more than $91 million, and the overall budget and the general fund each grew by less than 1 percent from the previous year.

Other cuts included may result in fewer hours at the animal shelter and reduced maintenance for groundskeeping, trash collection and upkeep of floors and public areas.

In other matters, the supervisors approved the county's response to the grand jury's recommendation for an overhaul of the governmental structure at the county level.

The grand jury released a report in May saying that Humboldt County needs a stronger chief administrator and a part-time Board of Supervisors to be more efficient.

The response disagreed with several of the grand jury's recommendations and indicated that some were “unwarranted” and others “not reasonable and potentially in violation of state law.”


At A Glance:

$303 million total

$91 million general fund

$893,785 contingency reserve

15 percent cuts across the board for most departments

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