June 27's "County adopts $29.3 million budget" incorrectly reported the state of the 2007-08 proposed County Budget. The correction, requested by Del Norte County, ran in June 28 but again included incorrect information relating to the proposed budget. The county does not have a surplus of $6,807,364.34 for the 2007-08 fiscal year.
We all understand that government accounting and budgeting is complicated and not easily understood, however the information misleads the public. Del Norte County holds public hearings to discuss the proposed budget and ultimately the final budget. The opportunity to ask questions is readily available. Unfortunately, what should have been a positive story became negative by incorrect data.
Here are the facts:
Del Norte County has discretionary and non-discretionary funding. Non-discretionary funding cannot be used for uses other than what the original allocation allows. This means that road funds must be used for road projects, health and human service funding for social services, etc. County discretionary funds may be allocated by the Board of Supervisors for programs and departments that are determined by the board of supervisors to be priorities. The County General Fund includes these discretionary funds.
Currently, General Fund expenditures exceed revenues by $352,418. Any excess revenue in non-discretionary funds cannot be used to balance or augment the General Fund.
Departments funded by discretionary funds include but are not limited to the sheriff, jail, community development, animal control, public nuisance, recreation, parks, juvenile hall, the treasurer/tax collector, auditor, district attorney and the assessor.
The proposed budget contains the priorities outlined during the Board of Supervisors' April 24 meeting. Service levels were either maintained at status quo or enhanced. Provisions were made to meet necessary mandates and in most instances additional resources were granted to improve efficiency and effectiveness. Per Board direction, the budget provides for economic development through contributions to both tourism/marketing and financial support of the community initiative.
In addition to the support for economic development partnerships, the county is forging ahead with the purchase of the primary layers of a GIS system, working on internal cooperative plans and adding the necessary implementing staff. The proposed budget includes consultant services to aid in the identification, preliminary environmental assessment and listing of suitable sites for business development.
The airport expansion has been identified as a community priority which requires not only a significant financial contribution but the need for additional maintenance staff.
Lastly, the need to increase compensation levels for our employees is addressed with a proposed multi-year cost of living adjustment. Recruitment and retention are becoming increasingly more problematic as skilled professionals are in high demand and rural areas are hard pressed to be financially competitive with their urban counterparts.
Significant change in the county's economic growth transpires incrementally as the economy improves. There is a lag time between the inception of economic growth and the increase in our tax base. Discretionary revenues are limited to taxes, interest on investments, fines and fees. The largest portion of these discretionary revenues fund public safety and safety net social programs. The small balance of remaining discretionary dollars aids and supports the service delivery of these crucial services and provides for an improved quality of life through parks and recreation.
In closing, the County of Del Norte appreciates that the story of the adoption of the proposed budget was front-page priority, however, reporting only a small portion of the information results in a failure to communicate the true story.
David Finigan is the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors chairman. Joining him in writing the piece was Christie Babich, county auditor/controller, Jay Sarina, assistant county administrative officer and Jeannine Galatioto, county administrative officer.