New county budget in effect

The county’s budget for the coming fiscal year goes into effect this week and includes cost of living employee raises and use of General Fund savings to cover a $2.9 million deficit.
A budget challenged by increased expenses was approved at the June 25 Board of Supervisors meeting. Forwarding the General Fund’s balance to the next fiscal year has been used in past years to cover salary increases and supervisors waived a balanced budget requirement to do it this time.
The $303 million budget became effective on July 1 and includes two percent cost of living employee salary hikes that comprise $1.2 million of the deficit. The county’s contingency or emergency fund has dropped to just below $1 million, far below a $6 million standard.
Seventy-five thousand dollars of contingency fund money was transferred to pay for certification of the Blue Lake Levee, stormwater monitoring in Shelter Cove and staff support on Klamath dam removal lobbying.
Just back from Washington, D.C., where he advocated for federal funding for the dam removal process, Supervisor Mark Lovelace thanked other supervisors for approving the Klamath staff support.
He said that he had discussions with the Department of the Interior on getting federal funding for technical support on the issue and “the county’s willingness to step up and put some money forward” as leverage was “very helpful.”
Supervisor Estelle Fennell said many county departments need increased funding. Numerous supplemental budget requests weren’t granted but Fennell highlighted one area where the county was able to provide modestly increased contributions.
“We did increase the allotments for fire departments and fire districts,” she said. “That was a good decision that we made, I wish it could have been more.”
The enhanced fire department contributions are from the county’s Proposition 172 public safety services account, which is fed by sales tax shares and saw growth this year.
Fennell acknowledged that “we could do with more law enforcement – we have lots of issues,” but she said providing employee raises is also important.
Supervisor Rex Bohn said county departments all have needs that “aren’t being met” and cautiously suggested that conditions are improving.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel and as long it’s not an oncoming train, we have some options in the future,” he said.
Bohn also highlighted the importance of the work done by county employees and the need for the two percent wage increase. Supervisors could have had the same but unanimously voted to forgo it, which Bohn also described as a sound decision.
The approved budget includes an $18,163 reduction to the General Fund’s contribution to social services programs. The savings will be used to fund a part-time secretary position that will allow the University of California Cooperative Extension to continue 4-H and other youth programs.