It is once again time for Plumas County to begin the budget process. And lately, it seems that many of us are once again experiencing the “Irrational Exuberance” of a number of years ago. I hear that the economy has recovered from the recent recession. I just don’t see it! True, a number of urban centers (the Bay Area for example) are experiencing a robust economy; however, we are living in a rural economy and are experiencing similar results of others with our demographics.
These past few months I have been tracking County revenue streams and they are not indicating much improvement. As a matter of fact, in some areas, the revenues are less than last year.
To begin the budget process, the Board of Supervisors requested our County departments submit status quo budgets. In most cases, that did not happen. When looking at projected revenues versus “requested” budgets, we came up with a projected shortfall in the general fund budget of more than 3 million dollars ($3,000,000). Folks we cannot spend what we don’t have!
In the next few months the Board will be meeting with each department, working through their requested budgets, line item by line item. I am certain those budgets include items that we can eliminate, and must. However, I seriously doubt we will find $3 million worth of fluff. We will have to face the fact that cuts will have to be made. In some cases this may result in reorganization of some of our departments and a reduction in the level of service we would like to provide in a perfect world. Sadly, this is not a “perfect world” in terms of revenue.
Sales tax figures are a good indicator of what is happening in our economy, its health. Take a look at the historical figures on this graph. I have included all years going back to when the economy was considered to be booming – 2005 forward. Even when removing the highest and lowest years, the trend line is still going down. Many persist in believing those years preceding the subprime collapse will return, that this recession is of a historical nature. Clearly, it is not and we must adjust to what is.
I see our current situation not as a disaster, but rather an opportunity to streamline County government. As the Board goes through this process, I will keep you posted on our progress.
Please check back for updates; be informed.