By Jennifer Henion
Triplicate staff writer
Del Norte County's Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a $34 million budget yesterday that eliminates 10 jobs.
The workers now holding those 10 jobs will be asked to either leave county employment or take other positions currently vacant by Oct. 23.
The budget eliminates eight jobs in the Sheriff's Department, as well as the county's entire two-person grants division.
And although all eight Sheriff's Department employees will be offered other positions within that department, the two grants division employees will only have positions in other departments to consider.
The budget reduces county spending elsewhere, as well.
The number of public defender contracts the county will enter into this year will be decreased to save about $25,000 over last year.
Tensions in the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors chambers were high during yesterday's meeting. This is the third budget-year in a row that the board has asked county departments and employees to endure funding cuts.
Del Norte County Supervisor Jack Reese expressed concern about eliminating the grants staff, apparently because its sole purpose is to harness state and federal dollars the county would not otherwise receive.
"I just don't want to see us shoot ourselves in the foot," Reese said.
County Administrative Officer Jeannine Galatioto said the duties of the grants staff will be spread to other departments.
The final budget meeting did not attract many county employees or union representatives, as in past years, but several department heads were in attendance.
County Assessor Gerald Cochran had two suggestions for the board on how to help the budget.
"Every countywide elected official offered to give up 5 percent of our salaries and I understand the some of the board members did not. And I think if you're going to ask your employees to take a 5 percent cut, you should do the same," Cochran said.
After Cochran's statement, Supervisors Sarah Sampels and Martha McClure said they too had volunteered to take the pay cut along with the employees.
Supervisor David Finigan expressed frustration with the exchange.
Cochran also suggested the board begin charging an administrative fee to all of the special districts in the county, such as the library district, school district and firefighting districts, that rely on the county to collect tax assessments, process payrolls or provide other services.
Cochran said the county is allowed to charge such a fee and could collect as much as $50,000 per year for the general fund.
Despite the problems inherent in losing staff, Del Norte County Sheriff Dean Wilson said having the final budget approved by the board is a kind of relief.
"At least we're not sitting on ticking time bomb anymore. We know where we stand now," Wilson said.
Galatioto is not as relieved. She is already warning department heads that the next year's budgeting process begins in three months and that more money will likely need to be sliced from the county budget because of the state's financial problems.
"We are already aware of additional challenges. The state has suspended payment of state mandates, insufficiently appropriated funds for reimbursements by over $1 million and enacted a triple flip tax swap, all of which will severely impact cash flow," she said.
"We need to begin now to find solutions," she said.