Almost every child at some time fears the monster in the closet.  Well folks, we have a monster in our closet!  Our monster is the thing that will ultimately reduce your government services and potentially impact the future viability of many local governments. monster-in-the-closet       For years, local government was not required to show their obligation to pay for retiree benefits on their balance sheets; thus, most decision makers were unaware of the future debt they were incurring.

A few years ago that changed, when local governments were required to recognize their retirement debt obligation as part of their budgeting process.  We are required to show the debt obligation; however, we are not required to account for how we plan to meet that indebtedness. It must be remembered that Plumas County is required to have a balanced budget each year, that balances expenditures with anticipated income / revenue.

Past practice in Plumas County budgeting has been “pay as you go”; in other words, to estimate the current year’s requirement to pay for retiree benefits and build that into the budget, without looking to the compounding problem going into the future.  Last year, for the first time, Plumas County set aside dollars to be placed in an investment account whose earnings will help to meet the retiree debt load.  Due to extremely tight constraints, we were only able to establish an account with a small contribution; however, it is my intention to lobby heavily during this budget cycle for continuing to fund this account, if not to increase our contributions.

If we do not recognize this obligation and begin addressing it now, we will be facing dire consequences going into the future. We will see a large portion of our County labor force retiring due to the aging out of the “baby boomer” generation, without the increased revenue to pay for that growing liability. This will be further compounded by the obligations toward funding staffing hired to replace them!

This is not exclusively a local problem!  Governments all over the United States are in the same boat.  California is currently in a position where the average State retiree is receiving benefits that are far greater than the income the average citizen is currently earning. What part of this equation does not make sense?

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article discussing the situation on a national level – How to Become a Public Pension Millionaire .  In California, public employee unions are very strong; to the point that it becomes almost impossible for cities and counties to negotiate contracts that require workers to shoulder a greater portion of their retirement benefit contributions. Public pressure to maintain salaries and benefits for sheriff deputies, police and fire has compounded the problem.

Over time, many local governments, including Plumas County, have negotiated contracts with employee unions that saw the employer paying a greater portion of the employees’ share (in some instances 100%) in addition to the employer’s contribution to the Public Employee Retirement System costs. This has created a situation that cannot be sustained!

As it stands now, “it is truly a broken, unsustainable system…created with good intentions, yet with unfortunate consequences”. In future blogs, we will look at how this works, process and what must be done to fix it. We no longer have the luxury of “kicking this can down the road”!


Chapter 1 – SOME HISTORY

I am currently a member of the governing board of the Sierra Nevada Conservancy (SNC) , my second term, representing the North Central Subregion (there are 6 subregions in SNC).   The Conservancy, a California state agency created by the Legislature (AB2600) in 2004, has a mission “to initiate, encourage and support efforts that improve the environmental, economic and social well-being of the Sierra Nevada Region, its communities and the citizens of California.”  The SNC has an excellent website where you can view information on Board of Directors, Grants that have been awarded, meeting information, minutes and much more.

Funding for SNC’s programs comes from the California Environmental License Plate Fund and Proposition 84 (Safe Drinking Water, Water Quality and Supply, Flood Control, River and Coast Protection Bond Act) approved by California voters in 2006.  SNC was given $54 million of Prop 84 funds for grants and grant administration.  By March of last year it had awarded over $50 million to 296 projects throughout the Sierra Nevada.

It is the goal of SNC to support the Sierra Nevada region by funding local projects, providing technical help and supporting collaborative projects in partnership with local government, nonprofits and Tribal organizations.  Programs aim to accomplish the following:

Increased opportunity for tourism and recreation

Aid in the preservation of working landscapes

Reduce the risk of natural disasters, such as wildfire

Protect and improve water and air quality

Assist the economy

Enhance public use and enjoyment of public lands

Protect, conserve and restore the physical, cultural, archaeological, historical and living resources

Photo by: Katie Bagby
Photo by: Katie Bagby

For a number of years it seemed the Conservancy was funding mostly grants that placed land in trusts.  About 4 years ago, representatives of the North Central Subregion made a push for more funding of projects to promote good forest and watershed management practices.  SNC governing board agreed and recently, projects have focused on those goals.

This is the first in a series of blogs I will be writing about the Conservancy and its grant programs and focus areas of Healthy Forests and Abandoned Mine Lands. I see problems within that need to be addressed.

Stay tuned!


At the Board of Supervisors meeting on 11 March, I will be announcing a proposal for a new partnership with the USFS Plumas National Forest (PNF).  For the past month I have been working with PNF Supervisor Earl Ford formulating a program to provide an economic infusion for our community.

As a result of settlements coming out of the Storrie and Moonlight fires, the Forest Service has funding for forest restoration projects in the fire “footprints”.  The proposed program would have the PNF contracting with Plumas County to create a workforce made up of residents of Plumas County to perform various restoration works which could include the following:

  • Tree plantation maintenance, trails restoration and facility work, clearing and hand piling.
  • Road restoration, storm proofing, stream restoration, drainage repair, and grapple piling.

This program is envisioned to run about 4 years, providing training and employment. Ultimately, it could infuse millions of dollars into our economy.  While many of the details remain to be worked out, the potential for huge benefits to the people of Plumas County is great.

An overarching agreement on the part of the County and the PNF is that we do not wish to use these funds to “grow government”; rather, to “grow jobs” in the community.

The preliminary plan is for Plumas County to put out contracts based on a “Request for Proposal” type program, where contractors would be encouraged to submit proposals for accomplishment of various identified work elements.  Plumas County would act as contract administrator.

The Team
The Team

Today we had our “kick-off” meeting with the entire team; a very  productive meeting at that.

As you can well imagine, there are so very many details to be addressed, it is at times mind boggling.  However, if successful, this could be a vehicle to change the economic climate in Plumas County!  It will be a work in progress for some time – but what an exciting, challenging opportunity!

Please check back as I will be blogging about our progress as details become available.


Looks like we are getting some relief from the drought!  As y’all are aware, anything can happen when it comes to weather in the Almanor Basin. Our days of rain have noticeably increased the water levels in our reservoir (Lake Almanor) and the bypass has actually been activated.

Bypass Running
Bypass Running

With a large storm cell predicted to come through our area tonight I would imagine there will be even more water cascading down the bypass by tomorrow.  The drought is far from over – however, our rainy season is not over yet.

Keep up those rain dances!


This is the start of a series of blogs, over the next few months, on the intricacies of sound budgeting.  I think it is important to remember that sound budgeting in good times or bad is critical to the fiscal security and welfare of Plumas County and our citizenry.

As we all know, budgeting and living within that budget (within your means) is very hard during difficult economic times.  Budgeting for local, state and Federal governments for the last six years has been trying to say the least.

This is even more challenging in Plumas County because we are, by many accounts, still considered, even classified as frontier!  We live in a rural, mountain community and therefore face more variables in both revenue (income) and expense (cost) than our urban cities and counties.  Each year it seems our economy is impacted by an uncontrollable event or situation such as wildfires, smoke, too cold, too hot, too wet, too dry, no snow, too much snow, highway construction  to name a few.  Because it is so difficult to predict or anticipate that which will impact our economy and what that impact will be to revenue and expenses, maintaining adequate reserves and contingency funds is critical – fiscally responsible.

The Board of Supervisors recently completed a midyear budget review with our departments reporting generally below budget expenditures.  This is good news if it is real.  More importantly, are revenues at or above projections?  I have been looking at our revenue streams and the figures I am seeing are troubling.  While property tax assessments are up, our Sales Tax  and Transit Occupancy Tax (TOT) income is either flat or trending downward during a time when the media would have us believe the economy is greatly improved.

We need to be sure we don’t fall into the attitude I have heard recently – “What do you mean I’m broke; I still have checks.”


Your Board of Supervisors meets the first three Tuesdays of each month.  Meetings can now be viewed as they are taking place by visiting the Plumas County website and clicking on the button titled “Live Board Meetings” located below the map of Plumas County.  Meetings start at 11:00 am on the 1st and 3rd Tuesday and at 10:00 on the 2nd Tuesday.

To subscribe to the Board of Supervisors Agenda email list, contact Nancy DaForno, Clerk of the Board at 283-6170 or with your request.

If you are unable to watch while the meeting is taking place you can visit the web site and view any of the archived videos of past meetings.  These are indexed to the agenda for that day giving you the ability to view only the segments and discussions of interest to you.

There are many other committees, councils and commissions whose meetings could be live-streamed.  Do you have an interest in being able to attend the Coordinating Council or Transportation Commission meetings from the comfort of your home or office?  Please let me know as I will be working to bring some of these meetings on line.


In September 2013 the Almanor Basin Watershed Advisory Committee (ABWAC) changed from being an advisory committee to the Plumas County Board of Supervisors to a working group under the umbrella of the Sierra Institute.  In order to reflect this change in status the group has changed its name to the Lake Almanor Watershed Group   (LAWG). This change in status frees up the group to take on worthwhile projects in the Almanor watershed rather than being restricted to an advisory role.

At their most recent meeting the group received good news from Scott McReynolds, Northern Region, Department of Water Resources (DWR).  McReynolds informed the group that DWR will be taking over responsibility for water quality testing at Lake Almanor.  Over past few years this testing program has been funded through the generous support of Lake Almanor residents.  LAWG is very fortunate to have the attendance and participation of Scott McReynolds in their work and we look forward to a long and fruitful relationship with him.

McReynolds took the opportunity to provide the group with a briefing on the DWR Drought Management Team’s “Talking Points” (PDF Uploaded Link), including their activities in response to the current California drought. The paper covers DWR’s evaluation of current conditions, listings of the latest announcements by DWR and State Water Resources Control Board along with excellent links to numerous sites dealing with various aspects of drought response, data and maps, NOAAs Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service Precipitation Analysis and much more.

Keep in mind California is subject to cycles, with this a moment in time – Water, Water, Water ~ 2.