Category Archives: Fiscal


In war, battles are lost – ultimately winning the WAR is what counts. We intend to win this war!

On 5 April 2017 the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) filed the “Notice of Appeal” in our law suit against Plumas National Forest/Forest Service’s 2012 Travel Management Rule. The Rule, if left in place, attempts to close hundreds of miles of roads and trails on the Plumas National Forest to motorized travel and recreation thus denying us access to our lands.

This denial has huge impacts on our County and its residents. Perhaps the most significant result of the closures is the inability of our citizens (those who are disabled, including disabled veterans, and elderly) to use their forest. They have every right to enjoy our forests, lakes and streams that will be inaccessible to them without the use of a motorized vehicle. Remember – these are our lands!

I am one of those older people who cannot hike like I did when I was 20; I still love the forest and want to be able to visit some of the areas that will be closed to me unless I can drive there.

In addition, we rely upon the user-created routes for access in emergency situations such as wildfire, law enforcement and other government services to our residents. Once a route is closed it will no longer be maintained, ultimately making access in an emergency by that route impossible.

There is also significant impact to our economy due to the adverse impact on recreation and tourism. Years ago, as timber management and logging on National Forests was all but discontinued, the U.S. Forest Service management presented the “golden carrot”, stating they would increase recreational opportunities for the public. This has not been true; instead they have opportunistically taken every relative step to reduce access and thus recreational opportunities.

PLF will be completing our briefing on the appeal by the end of this year and hope to be before the Ninth Circuit Court in 2018.

Please see the press release (below) issued by Pacific Legal Foundation for more detail and information.

PLF files appeal in challenge to Plumas National Forest road closures



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.

Plumas County Sales Tax Comparison 2005-2014
Plumas County Sales Tax Comparison 2005-2014

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.


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”!


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.


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.”


It is important to note that Plumas LAFCO is an independent, presumed neutral agency.  By statute it is a separate public agency from the County and the city of Portola who provide funding and appoint members from their agencies and the public to serve on the Commission. At present, the Commission is comprised five members and alternates:  two members from the Plumas County Board of Supervisors and one alternate appointed by the Board of Supervisors; Two Portola City Council members and one alternate from the City of Portola (if more than one city existed in Plumas County the Mayors from each city would elect the two members and alternate from the ranks of all City Council members); and one Public Member and alternate appointed by the other Commission members. Special District representation would increase the five member Commission to seven (plus an alternate).  So far our Special Districts have chosen not to participate in the governance of LAFCO.  And, therefore do not help fund LAFCO. THE PROBLEM:  There is a move afoot in the Portola area to change the way the LAFCO budget is allocated between the County and City.   At present the cost is split 50/50.  A group of folks in Portola think this is unfair and want the County to pay 90 to 95% of the cost.  However, the makeup of the LAFCO Board would remain the same.  I do not support this change!  I think time would be better spent working with the Special Districts to encourage their membership.  The increased cost to Plumas County would be about $40,000 based on the current budget.  I am being flooded by emails, some from out of Plumas County, to support the change. WHAT DO YOU THINK?