Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Humboldt County Supervisors reduce cuts to UC cooperative extension and OES, restore grand jury funds

Donna Tam/The Times-Standard
Posted: 06/08/2010 01:30:09 AM PDT
Updated: 06/08/2010 01:30:09 AM PDT

Although the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors restored some proposed cuts to the UC Cooperative Extension and the Office of Emergency Services on Monday, next year's budget may means a 15 percent reduction in most county services, including the hours at the animal shelter.

During two public hearing sessions, the Board of Supervisors heard from one member of the public and various departments about concerns regarding the proposed cuts. Each department was asked to create three budget scenarios for the county administrative officer to choose from -- a 2.5 percent cut, a 7.5 percent cut and a 15 percent cut.

The supervisors voted unanimously to include a 7.5 percent cut instead of a 15 percent cut for UC Cooperative Extension, and to restore all funds for the grand jury, which would have a had a 15 percent cut. First District Supervisor Jimmy Smith said the more than $48,000 grand jury budget would have been saving only a couple thousand dollars.

The $10,000 in savings between the two budget scenarios for the UC Cooperative was not enough to convince the supervisors, who ultimately voted in favor of the lesser reduction. Staff had argued that the extra reduction might cause the department to lose its grant funding.

In addition, the board authorized the CAO to work with the Office Of Emergency Services to work out some of the cuts so the office doesn't miss out on grant funding. OES is facing a 15 percent cut.

After much debate, the supervisors also voted to add a list of priorities suggested by 5th District Supervisor Jill Duffy to the budget. The priorities included giving direction to the economic development branch of the community services department to seek out funding for work related to North Coast river restoration and the UC Cooperative, and to public works to seek out funds for river restoration work.

After hesitation from the rest of the board, Duffy withdrew her suggestion to instruct staff to follow the recommendations made last year by the independent auditor and said she would “leave silent” a direction to seek funds for the implementation of the McKinleyville general plan.

The other supervisors voiced concern over initiating the search for funds for the McKinleyville general plan without a cost analysis of implementation and questioned the appropriateness of the suggestion for Monday's budget hearing. They suggested that she change the suggestion to put more weight on the supervisors creating a goal for implementing the plan, or take up the issue at another meeting.

Duffy said she public hearings on the budget is the time to have a discussion concerning this plan, and would help set it as a priority.

”I've been bringing it forward time after time and I haven't seen any movement. ... I'm actually quite astounded that we're arguing about this,” she said.

Duffy also commented on the lack of public turnout at the meeting.

During the morning session, the board had one member of the public come before them to comment.

Lin Glen, a board member of the local American Cancer Society chapter, spoke before the board to argue against the reduction of the public education fund. County staff recommended a 15 percent cut to the budget, which is funded by a settlement from the tobacco companies. County staff said there would not be a reduction in services or staff as a result of the cut.

The fund is unrestricted so counties can use it for other funding and not necessarily tobacco prevention, Glen said, adding that prevention education is crucial.

”When we keep kids from starting to smoke, we save lives and we save money in medical costs,” she said.

Other proposed cuts include a 7.5 percent cut to the Board of Supervisors budget, 15 percent to juvenile hall, and 7.5 percent to probation.

The supervisors cut includes a reduction in travel expenses and extra help costs, and foregoing a pay raise. For juvenile hall and probation, the cuts mean one-time transfers of trust funds for both departments and holding 10 positions vacant for probation.

In animal control, the 15 percent cut means holding three positions vacant. Lt. Steve Knight, who manages the shelter, said this may mean the shelter will no longer be open Saturdays or Wednesday nights. Currently, the staff work overtime to keep the shelter open on Saturdays.

For facility management, the 15 percent reduction to the budget means reduced maintenance for groundskeeping, trash collection, and upkeep of floors and public areas.

Public Works Director Tom Mattson said the department is ready to make those reductions, but it will come with a price in terms of physical and structural maintenance of public buildings and grounds.

”We've got to do that to get through this year, and hopefully we'll be here next year fighting each other for increases,” he said.

Donna Tam can be reached at 441-0532 or dtam@times-standard.com.


No comments: