El Dorado County hits fiscal trouble | SierraSun.com

El Dorado County hits fiscal trouble

Andrew Cristancho
Sierra Sun

Meeks Bay fire department dodged a budgetary bullet Tuesday morning when the El Dorado County’s Chief Administrative Officer, Laura Gill, did not bring a cut to the board of supervisor’s meeting.

That cut would have meant $320,000 loss of funding to the basin’s smallest year-round fire protection district, said Fire Chief John Pang. The chief commended Gill, on Wednesday, for giving fire protection top priority.

“It was definitely a big burden off my shoulders,” Pang said.

El Dorado County must reconcile a $15 million shortfall this year before budget negotiation meetings proceed in early June, according to the El Dorado Chief Administrative Office’s Laura Schwartz, a principal analyst.

Schwartz’s office has directed all departments countywide to examine their spending, mandatory and discretionary, to find where program funding may be cut, so when budget talks start on June 9, the administrative office can come to the board of supervisors with a balanced budget.

“Every year we present a balanced budget,” Schwartz said. “So that is why are we addressing this now.”

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The county’s shortfall comes from the downturn in the housing market and lost revenue due to a slow-down in building, said Mike Applegarth, senior administrative analyst for the Chief Administrative Office.

Building permit revenue is garnered from “everything from a water heater permit, to the re-roof, to master-plan community,” Applegarth said.

Countywide the department is down $916,000 over the last two fiscal years, he said.

Property tax revenue is down over $2 million this year, according to Schwartz.

The Tahoe arm of the building departments may not feel the bite of the possible cuts quite as much as the departments on the Western slope. Property remains an allocated commodity, said Applegarth.

“The building department in Tahoe probably won’t feel the pinch, but could share the pain with the rest of the department,” Applegarth said. “There were a number of vacancies in that office and those might not be filled.”

The Department of Transportation will feel reductions too, according to Applegarth.

The county pays $2 million annually in a road maintenance fund, which is used for resurfacing roads, said Diana Buckley, Deputy Director of Administration.

All of that money will be cut, said Applegarth, but a $3 million dollar stipend from the state, expected to come as a result of the passage of Proposition 1B in 2006, will be used in it’s place, according Buckley.

Only part of the 1B funds will be used for resurfacing, she said, the remainder will be used for general maintenance. No cuts to the county’s $2.8 million snow removal budget will be considered, according to Applegarth.

As for the Meeks Bay Fire Protection District “aid to fire” funding, Applegarth said by phone after Tuesday’s Board meeting that it was a good sign the item was not brought to the table, but he remained cautious about ruling out the possibility of a future cut completely.