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Sunday, July 21, 2024
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Board of Supervisors Consider Cost-Cutting Measures to Address Mendocino County’s $6.1 Million Deficit

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[L to R] Mendocino County CEO Darcie Antle, 1st District Supervisor Glenn McGourty, 5th District Supervisor Ted Williams, Mendocino County Representative to the California Assembly Jim Wood, 4th District Supervisor Dan Gjerde, 3rd District Supervisor John Haschak, 2nd District Supervisor Mo Mulheren

The Board of Supervisors is looking for $6.1 million to balance its books for Fiscal Year 2021/22, as costs and interest rates soar and sales tax decreases. 

The county reached a tentative agreement with its largest employee union for a 2% Cost of Living Adjustment, which it might be able to fund with a pension reserve account. The self-funded healthcare plan that was in place when the county racked up a $3.6 million deficit has now been swapped out for a pool plan that will require an increase in employee contributions. That’s supposed to save the county $685,000 a year, but unknown future obligations are likely to be sizable.

At last week’s budget workshop, the Board reviewed an analysis of the costs for building the new jail for mentally ill inmates, which includes millions in staffing. 

The Board also heard a reminder that the county is still waiting on more than $9 million of covid relief money promised by FEMA. That money has been borrowed from the treasury, and the interest is not recoverable.

And there’s been no paper trail documenting the direction that former auditor Lloyd Weer allegedly received from the State Controller’s office in 2016, telling him the county should spend down the healthcare reserves by not paying into the health plan for three months out of the year or requiring employees to pay into it.

Supervisor Ted Williams described the situation to Assemblymember Jim Wood last week, and asked him for help from the state. 

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“I don’t know, when I’ve voted on balanced budgets in the past, whether they were actually balanced,” Williams said. “That’s coming to light. We have a health plan that was millions over, and part of that was due to a holiday. I understand that’s because we got a call from the state. The state said we had accumulated too much money. We needed to spend it down. I don’t know what department of the state or why they would have done that by phone instead of writing…our finances are in such disarray, if I were in the state’s position, I would be looking at this rural county, thinking, we need to conserve them, clean up this mess and then give control back. Do you have any thoughts on how we move forward? We don’t have the local labor pool, we don’t have the funds to hire the staffing. It sounds like we have an office that was based on paper and spreadsheets, not automated systems. I think the Board and staff want to move forward and get our books in order, but we don’t know how.”

Wood was noncommittal, saying, “We’re happy to work with you on that. Those are issues that we’re becoming aware of. I don’t know where there is potential for state resources there, but one of the things I’m always pushing for in my role is more technical assistance and support for rural counties.”

Acting Deputy CEO Sara Pierce told the Board the county has received $9.1 million in covid money from FEMA and is still waiting for another $9.4 million. Supervisor John Haschak questioned her and CEO Darcie Antle. Pierce said when the county receives the amount FEMA has promised, it will go into the county’s disaster recovery budget unit, since that unit “is currently sitting in a $10 million deficit.”

“How does that deficit show up?” Haschak asked. “Are we using reserves to cover that deficit at this point?”

Antle told him that she believes the county is paying interest to the treasury, as it is for the money it borrowed to cover the health plan deficit. “And so that interest won’t be recoverable,” Haschak deduced. “When FEMA finally pays us, it will just be the base pay.”

“Correct,” Antle confirmed.

The Board also learned that the new jail will cost the county $2.5 million a year in employee wages and benefits. 

General Services Agency Director Janelle Rau explained why expectations for ongoing facilities costs at the new jail have risen.

“We’re moving towards a cost of ownership model, versus the historical practice of what is contained in the Board’s Policy 33 regarding facility maintenance,” she said. That policy, last amended in 2007, states that seventy cents per square foot is to be funded for future capital costs. The standards for the cost of ownership model, which includes a capital reserve that budgets for ongoing facilities upkeep, is closer to $3 a square foot. Projections under the new model are sobering, and possibly more realistic. Rau told the Board that, “What we’ve estimated now, based on that expanded footprint, would be an additional $175,000. Again, currently the Board is not funding capital maintenance reserves. Funding is occurring on a project by project basis.”

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Supervisor Dan Gjerde argued for several belt-tightening initiatives, including consolidating dispatch services, offering employees the option of a less comprehensive healthcare plan, and unloading county parks.

“How can we maintain the pretense that we’re going to keep these five or six county parks that are basically neighborhood parks?” he asked, before proposing an aggressive policy for park divestiture. “I think we need to set a schedule, where in the next two to three years, at a certain date and point in time, they will be offloaded. We will put them on the open market, if no non-profit steps forward, if no community services district steps forward, because we do not have the money to maintain our county roads.”

The budget ad hoc committee, which consists of Supervisors Williams and Glenn McGourty, made several suggestions, including maintaining the current vacancy rate for non-mandated General Fund positions, except for those currently in recruitment; decommissioning services, including animal control on the coast;  and increasing remote work to cut down on county-maintained office space. 

The budget workshop is on the agenda again for tomorrow’s meeting. The Board will also decide on whether or not to accept agreements with two employee unions.

Watch the budget discussion here

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15 COMMENTS

  1. “I don’t know, when I’ve voted on balanced budgets in the past, whether they were actually balanced,” Williams said.

    “Officer, I didn’t know that those last four drinks would actually put me over the legal limit, before I ran over those people in the cross walk.”

  2. Damn maybe if you guys didn’t waste out tax money rebuilding State Street downtown to make it an ugly mess and on retarded woke policies and political pandering to gay stuff maybe you guys would have money to actually spend on what the people want

    Fucking clowns LMAO

  3. So what happened to the $20 million surplus recently touted? More and more, it simply looks like no one actually knows what’s really going on. One wonders what we have five Supervisors for. Sell the parks? To who? The relentless privatization of formerly public functions usually exacerbates any costs and difficulties.

    • Would be interesting to do a Public Request Act for all recent communications between BOS members and CEO employees to the ex CEO Carmel Angelo, say from March 2022 to present. to see what is being asked and how she answers. Would be eye opening or maybe not, but would be interesting none the less

  4. Don’t ‘off load’ county parks! Reserve them as public lands for community members, present and future, to enjoy. Public lands can never be recovered.

  5. Why isn’t the previous CEO being held to task for the mess she created and walked away from? And don’t even think about giving her a contract for her Small Government Consultant biz to ride in and straighten it out!!!! Tax payers should totally revolt if the BOS even thinks of it.
    Keep records? But then you can’t play the shell game and BS and bully your way around. Someone might tell you the Emperor has no clothes!!! And you gotta wonder why the last Auditor suddenly retired……..hmmmmmm. He knew the curtain was about to come down.
    Funny how they look to the employees and county parks to save money. What about all those big FAT raises for the upper crust of the County Administration? Those need to be re evaluated and adjusted to reality. Gotta wonder why some departments still exist when they contract out most of their duties and why do we still need a robust marijuana unit when there is no money in that business any more?
    Why not cut back on the jail expansion? Do we need the cadillac model or will a VW model do for now?
    Too bad no one stood up to (except the Sheriff) or questioned or pulled that curtain down long ago during the Angelo reign. Too bad you all were busy brown nosing and hob nobbing and caving into the almighty CEO. She played you like fools. Now we all suffer and she cashes her fat retirement in luxury in southern Calif and laughs at the inconsequential people of Mendo Co whom she always thought stupid anyway.

  6. There would be firings (included elected officials) if this were a private business. Mind blowing how no one knows the true state of finances and how it swung from a stated $20 million reserves per the former CEO in January, 2022 to a significant deficit of $6 million now. The State Auditor should step in.
    Seriously, given the employee vacancies, Mendocino should outsource some departments to another County or private businesses (roads, IT, accounting, ag functions). Only the Sheriff and DA seem to know how to manage their functions.

  7. This all started over the Health Plan which comes from Human Resources and directly reporting to CEO Office. The 20 million in reserves came from information from Carmel as she bragged when she retired. But yet, Bowtie Ted keeps wanting to go after Auditor. The two offices the BOS combined have specific jobs, one collects taxes and acts as a bank, meaning holds the funds. Does your bank tell you how to spend your money? No, it is a safe place to store your money and can help in transactions. The Auditor makes sure the budgets are followed and pays the bills. Provides accounting services. If you need info, what’s in the account, what’s been paid stuff like that. Yes, this person might have some direction or advice but the decisions rest on the CEO’s Office and the final decision makers the BOS. Do you think Jim Woods really wants to get involved when Bowtie Ted is standing before him basically admitting to him that Bowtie and his fellow geniuses have f’ed up, along with CEO Office. They need a scapegoat, it happens to center around this move of combining offices and Chamise Cubbison, there is your goat, folks.

    This BOS and CEO office is solely to blame!!! Either Carmel was lying about 20 million in reserves because if it’s there, this would be an easy fix. This doesn’t pass the smell test Bowtie, you’re hiding something. Time to be a man and come clean.

    • Also, if the County is on the verge of bankruptcy Bowtie, then how did the credit rating for the County go up? I’ve asked this before in past posts but you never address it. Oh, I forgot, you did address it when you tried to take credit for it. Bowtie’s rules, blame problems on others and take credit for things you have nothing to with.

  8. Really you are blaming things that happened in 2016. This Board of elected officials have not had a handle on the finances for many years. So the solution is to make less available for citizens of the country? Less employees for needed services? No parks for families to gather? Leaving families pets that get loose on the coast at the Ukiah shelter (how much does the transport cost vs keeping the shelter open). What about voting yourself a pay cut like you imposed upon employees after voting a big raise in the past. I hope and pray that voters remember when they go to polls.

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Sarah Reith
Sarah Reith
Sarah Reith is a radio and print reporter working in Mendocino and Humboldt counties, focusing on local politics and environmental news.

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