The Plumas County Board of Supervisors is poised to adopt a $141.7 million budget, with $42 million in general funds, including $15.6 million in unassigned funds available for the supervisors to allot as needed.
The Sept. 29 public hearing, scheduled to begin at 9 a.m., will consider allocating spending from library books to roads, from wages to a new jail – everything needed to operate Plumas County for a year.
About the 2023-24 Budget
A full 440 pages, the 2023-2024 Recommended Budget is the first budget in six years that has generated new numbers to reflect actual revenue and expenditures department by county department.
“We didn’t just use budget figures from the previous year and roll them over. These are the actual projected numbers for 2023-2024,” said Debra Lucero, Plumas County Administrative Officer.
In developing the proposed budget, Lucero worked closely with Auditor Martee Graham. They met with individual departments to discuss their spending requirements. The process allowed them to learn more about each department and its needs, Lucero said. She reviewed past budgets thoroughly, identifying pots of money that were unallocated. As a result, the $15.6 million in unassigned funds is a $6.9 million increase over the $8.6 million projected in the county’s last financial audit on June 30, 2021, she said.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Greg Hagwood said the recommended budget provides greater clarity and understanding of the county’s expenditures than Plumas County has had for years.
“It is the most comprehensive, in-depth and accurate representation of the county’s finances in many years,” he said.
Two days for review
Released late on Sept. 20, the budget missed a deadline that requires 10 days of public review before approval. The process has also drawn criticism for scheduling a single day for public review and correcting errors.
District Attorney David Hollister asked the supervisors to add a second day for the budget hearings on Monday, Oct. 2, the last day it can be adopted to comply with state law..
“Having two days of budget hearings would be a fair and reasonable approach to get back on track and comply with the letter and spirit of the County Budget Act,” he said in a Sept. 21 letter to Board Chairman Greg Hagwood.
Lucero said Oct. 2 has now been designated as a continuation of the Sept. 29 hearing, with final adoption expected by the end of the day.
Projected annual expenditures
The proposed budget tackles several priorities covering employee staffing, department technology and capital improvements. It includes a net increase of 6.25 full-time employees, and a 6 percent increase in wages for 27 employees, resulting in a $246,610 increase to general fund expenditures.
Capital projects include a new jail, a computer-aided dispatch system, and a county mobile library.
One of the most notable changes in the 2023-2024 recommended budget involves the CAO’s office. Lucero, who was hired in November, has budgeted $565,000 annually for professional services. Once authorized, the CAO’s expenditures will not require Board approval.
The budget for CAO travel is $16,000; of that, $14,000 can be spent on travel outside of Plumas County. In contrast, the annual travel allocation for the District Attorney’s office, which includes three attorneys, is $7,000.
One-time budget items
Among the one-time funds available are $7.8 million the county received as a settlement from Pacific Gas & Electric Co. for damages from the 2021 Dixie fire. The budget recommends using this money as a match to mitigation projects and rebuilding grants. It also suggests providing cash flow for the new jail and contribution to an investment portfolio to realize new cash. Other spending possibilities for spending the Dixie fire settlement funds include new radio equipment, towers, repairs to HVAC and plumbing.
The budget also projects an insurance settlement of $2.2 million for county buildings and equipment lost in the Dixie Fire. The county is still negotiating a final settlement, Lucero said.
Other notable one-time monies include the $3.6 million in American Rescue Plan Funding, some of it carryover spending from the last budget. The budget recommends using $1.3 million on a one-time $1,500 stipend for essential workers; reimbursement for sick time due to COVID; hiring a grant manager; and another $1,000 payment for all permanent full-time employees working for the county prior to April 10, 2022, with the exception of department heads and elected officials.
Lucero plans to begin the budgeting process again in January 2024 and adopt a final budget in June 2024, instead of by the state deadline of October 2. This will allow Public Works and Facility Services to get an earlier start on capital projects such as repaving, repairs and outdoor maintenance, she said.