The Colusa County Board of Supervisors has approved a balanced budget, now that property tax rolls have been finalized and the state budget approved.
The $99 million budget, which includes special districts, county services areas, special revenue funds, and internal services, allocates about 3.6 percent more spending than last year, although most of that increase (94.4 percent) is outside the general fund, said County Administrative Officer, Wendy Tyler.
Tyler said the budget funds the equivalent of 386.2 full-time positions, and that 42.5 percent of the budget goes toward salaries and benefits.
“We are very close to where we have been in prior years,” Tyler said. “There’s not a big change.”
While the Board of Supervisors oversee the entire budget, which includes state and federal funding, they have the most control over the general fund component of the budget, which is about $33.6 million, up from $33.4 million last year.
This year’s budget continues the county’s participation in the Sites Reservoir Project, and allows for the purchase of long-needed software for Animal Control, the Agriculture Commissioner, and Community Development Department.
While there were a number of requests from departments to add positions, not every request was satisfied.
The board added a public health nurse and a clinician, but they did not fill requests for an Ag Biologist and an additional Animal Control officer, which they felt were not needed at this time, Tyler said.
The budget does fund 12 new vehicles, including five patrol vehicles for the sheriff and three for Health and Human Services. It also funds a new boat for East Park Reservoir and equipment for Public Works.
“The good news of this budget is that we were able to put some funds ($1 million) back into reserves,” Tyler said. “Last year, we dipped into those. We were able to restore those this year. Reserves, as of this budget, sit at $5.2 million.”
Public protection (law enforcement, jail, district attorney, water management, planning, etc.) costs local taxpayers about $22 million, the lion’s share of general funds dollars.
“It’s not just badges and guns, which is what we think when we say public protection,” Tyler said. “It’s also health and sanitation.”
The budget also funds about $1.6 million for education, which includes the county libraries and cooperative extension service.
Local property taxes account for the majority of the county’s revenue, Tyler said. Addition funding includes sales taxes, property taxes in lieu of vehicle license fees, franchise fees, licenses and permits, and fines and penalties. The county receives about $320,000 in interest on invested money, and about $6 million from state and federal sources.
What the budget does not address is the county’s unfunded CalPERS pension liabilities, now in excess of $70 million.
“This is our 2018 number,” she said.
The budget does include $2.2 million toward “Other Post-Employment Benefits,” typically lifelong health care benefits to retirees.
While Tyler said the county is paying more annually toward their unfunded pension debt (roughly 40 percent of payroll), the costs continue to rise.
At some point, the county will have to develop a more aggressive strategy to meet its pension obligations, Tyler said, which may include reducing services to the public. ■