Budget bomb: Nevada County $5.5M in the hole next year | SierraSun.com

Budget bomb: Nevada County $5.5M in the hole next year

Kyle Magin
Sun News Service

NEVADA COUNTY, Calif. and#8212; More than 50 Nevada County employees listened intently as Assistant CEO Joe Christoffel delivered the bad news at a Tuesday meeting of the board of supervisors.

Property tax revenues continue to plummet, down 7.5 percent this year, opening a $1.175 million gap in the countyand#8217;s budget of nearly $182 million.

The current-year deficit was balanced by payments including reimbursements from the state for costs incurred last year; savings on insurance rates and attorney fees; and higher-than-estimated sales tax revenue, Christoffel said.

But if the overall revenue trend continues, county income for 2011-12 would be $5.5 million less than what the county is collecting this year. Property tax revenues are projected to drop another 2 percent next year, Christoffel added.

and#8220;Itand#8217;s not going to be business as usual around here,and#8221; said District 4 Supervisor Hank Weston. and#8220;I donand#8217;t see it turning around any time soon.and#8221;

The supervisors have and#8220;three levers to pulland#8221; to begin to address the predicted 2011-12 deficit, Christoffel said.

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and#8220;They can reduce spending, use labor negotiations and their reserves,and#8221; Christoffel said.

Board members must make hard choices in coming months, said Chairman Nate Beason of Nevada Cityand#8217;s District 1.

The board has more than $8.5 million in reserves backing up a general fund of nearly $61 million; the general fund consists largely of property, sales and transient occupancy taxes, and pays for many day-to-day functions that are not funded by federal, state and agency grants.

and#8220;Clearly weand#8217;re going to need to use at least part ofand#8221; budgeted reserves, Beason said.

Staff cuts in anticipation of next yearand#8217;s projected deficit already are underway, Christoffel said. He pointed to four layoffs announced nearly two weeks ago designed to save about $250,000 annually in salaries and benefits.

The countyand#8217;s staffing levels dropped from 913 at the beginning of FY 2009-10 and now stands at 826 employees, according to Tuesdayand#8217;s budget report.

Payroll accounts for nearly half ($87.2 million) of the county’s expenses. Seven union bargaining units represent county employees, and labor contracts include raises of as much as a 3 percent for some employees this year, although several managers and front-line employees have turned down pay raises.