For the first time in several years, the Board of Supervisors is considering a budget that does not require county employees to take unpaid furlough days.
Meanwhile, a budget report revealed that the Sheriff’s Office, which also includes the jail and coroner’s budgets, experienced a loss of $346,320 in the 2012–13 fiscal year. This is due to an agreement to provide bed space for inmates from Tehama County that fell through, as well as a lower than expected number of inmates from Shasta County using beds at the Del Norte County Jail, according to the report.
This prompted a request from supervisors Martha McClure and Roger Gitlin on Tuesday to hear from the sheriff.
“I am deeply concerned with the problems we’re having with the sheriff and jail budgets,” McClure said. “The amount of money that is projected and then falls through ... I’m wondering if we could get a report of the activity from the sheriff of what they’re doing to regain these contracts. I’d like to see a mid-year report telling me how we’ve gained this revenue back.”
County Administrative Officer Jay Sarina presented the revised recommended budget to supervisors at a public hearing Tuesday. They will take public comment again before adopting the final budget Sept. 24. A final county budget must be approved and adopted by Oct. 2.
Sarina said the county’s overall general fund increased slightly due to additional revenue from payments in lieu of taxes. The 2013-14 general fund budget is balanced at $23,820,264, according to the report. The county’s total budget is $104,050,648.
Miscellaneous employees, appointed department heads, assistant department heads and confidential employees agreed to a two-year agreement that included a 4 percent furlough. Ten furlough days that were scheduled during the 2012-13 fiscal year ended in March. The county budget team’s goal was to present a final budget that did not include furloughs, according to the report.
“We’re fortunate to be able to get where we’re at this year,” Sarina said. “The economy certainly appears to be making a bit of a turnaround.”
While career step pay increases are included in the 2013-14 budget, there is no cost-of-living adjustment, Sarina said.
The Del Norte County Employees Association, which represents nearly 300 miscellaneous county employees, is still in contract negotiations with county officials, said Norma Williams, the association’s vice president and chair of the bargaining team. Miscellaneous employees include staff in the county’s probation and District Attorneys Office.
“We have not seen a pay raise in terms of a cost of living raise for at least five years,” Williams said. “We took the furlough days to help balance the budget and to (prevent) potential layoffs, which are always very important to us. We strive to retain county employees and their jobs.”
Williams told supervisors many county employees are living from paycheck to paycheck, and the furloughs they took last year required them to make tough choices.
“As a result we bought less, saved little or nothing and some lost what extra money they put away in separate retirement accounts,” she said. “Prices are going up, but our wages stay stagnant. Highly trained professionals and managers and line staff are not earning competitive wages even based on 2008 standards.”
Supervisor David Finigan said supervisors also took a cut in pay and were the last to get raises.
“There are no furloughs this year,” he said. And yes, we’d love to see everybody get a raise or at least (see) a schedule for raises. At the same time there are higher medical costs and higher pension costs. It’s a delicate balance. I think it’s supposed to be teamwork and I appreciate seeing that spirit in the future.”
The general fund back-filled the sheriff’s budget last year to make sure there were no layoffs, Sarina said. The jail budget is also being impacted by the reallocation of state prison inmates to local jails, he said.