Tuesday, October 3, 2023

4th District Supervisorial Candidate Bernie Norvell Gives His Take on Balancing Mendocino County’s Budget—Letter to the Editor

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Balancing a budget is a crucial task for any government, as it directly impacts the overall economic stability and long-term sustainability of the government, in this case, the county.    

A balanced budget ensures that the county’s revenue matches its expenditure, instilling trust in its taxpayers and employees. Achieving and maintaining a balanced budget requires careful consideration, strategic planning, and a focus on fundamental principles. 

Here I will explore the importance of balancing a budget and discuss some practical strategies. 

The first step in balancing a budget is to evaluate the county’s current financial situation. The country’s current situation could be better. Potentially millions in the red and no offer of COLAs to the employees just for starters. This process has to involve analyzing revenue streams, expenditures, debt levels, and any existing budget deficit. A thorough understanding of the government’s financial position is essential in formulating effective strategies to achieve a balanced budget. 

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Increasing government revenue is also a necessary aspect of balancing a budget. This concept has been discussed ad nauseam at county meetings with little consensus on how to move forward. Aside from shoring up revenue-generating departments, the most glaring discussion is the county’s inability to keep up with property assessments and the significant loss of potential revenue. Some numbers I have heard are in the millions of dollars resulting in substantial revenue left uncollected.  Such a sum could go a long way to balance the budget and the much-deserved colas. Granted, the money would only come in piecemeal, but if we get started today, then when? 

Governments can explore various means to boost revenue, such as increasing taxes; “I’m only really a fan of this once and when the county can prove itself both solvent and prudent with expenses and revenue streams. However, it is crucial to strike a balance to avoid burdening individuals and businesses excessively. 

Additionally, governments should focus on policies that stimulate economic growth, as increased economic activity indirectly leads to higher tax revenues. Encouraging investment, promoting entrepreneurship, and supporting innovation are effective ways to achieve this. One giant step is to focus on limiting bureaucratic red tape and, for lack of better terms, just getting the government out of the way.   

To achieve a balanced budget, governments must prioritize spending based on the importance and impact of various government programs and services. There has been some discussion on this involving the social service departments and their efficiency. This idea requires evaluating and reevaluating existing programs and reallocating resources from less critical areas to more essential ones.

According to the state constitution, which we all swear to uphold, public safety ranks very high, and for good reason. People should feel safe and protected in their communities. When we look at the high cost of crime in our county, we can easily see the need for public safety. Suppose we add up the time the sheriff’s department dedicates to investigating ongoing crimes and the time it takes to arrest, transport, and jail someone. In that case, it can be in the thousands per incident. The costs pile up in the District attorney’s, the public defender and officers or a deputy’s time testifying. Keeping resources allocated to public safety is essential, and coordinating departments to help the Sheriff’s Department best utilize their time and effort is critical. 

Governments can ensure that limited resources are used effectively and efficiently by making strategic decisions about resource allocation. Efficiency measures play a significant role in balancing a budget. These measures are where governments should seek ways to streamline processes, reduce bureaucracy, and implement cost-saving technologies. These ideas are not new but certainly could help cut down on unnecessary expenses and improve overall government operations and service delivery. 

By embracing innovation and leveraging technology, governments can achieve cost savings without compromising the quality or accessibility of public services. One example is online building permits. Streamlining processes to allow for every day, not uncommon tasks that require a building permit.   For example, should it take 2-3 weeks to acquire a roofing permit that is not in the coastal zone?   A permit for a job that takes 2-4 days from start to finish. State or California building codes and regulations aside, we can do better in permitting. 

Another critical aspect of balancing a budget is reviewing grants and other forms of financial assistance provided by the government. The city has done a fantastic job utilizing grant opportunities to subsidize payroll by seeking grants that benefit the entire city population and not just certain groups. The county can and should take the same approach by being more aggressive with grants subsidizing employee payroll.   Grants are not the end all to eliminating deficits but can and should play a more prominent role. 

It is equally important to assess the effectiveness and eliminate ineffective programs. By targeting funding to areas with the most significant impact, governments can ensure that the allocated resources are utilized efficiently and that the desired outcomes are achieved. Addressing underlying structural issues is also vital to achieving a balanced budget. Governments must identify and tackle factors contributing to budget imbalances, such as high healthcare costs, pension obligations, or inefficient government structures.

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Governments can create a solid foundation for sustainable budget management by addressing these underlying issues.  We have seen this example in the recently published grand jury report referencing the county’s HR department. The ineffectiveness and instability in this department in evaluating current employees and recruiting new long-term employees. The report mentions that the existing staff should be commended for their effort, and rightly so. However, the department needs stable and long-term leadership.  

Finally, regular monitoring and review are crucial to balance the budget. If you have followed the county meetings, you have heard about the need for monthly department reports. If not monthly, then bi-monthly, keeping everyone abreast of current finances and allowing adjustments as needed.  Waiting until mid-year can be, at times, too late. Indeed, waiting until the end of the year will always be too late and will force cuts that may have been otherwise prevented.     

The county must continually evaluate revenue and expenditure patterns and make necessary adjustments to the budgetary framework. This ongoing evaluation will allow the county to respond effectively to changing economic conditions, policy priorities, and unexpected events. 

Balancing a budget is essential for the county’s overall economic stability and sustainability. Following the general steps and ideas above, the county can begin achieving and maintaining a balanced budget. To summarize some of my thoughts and plans, if elected, the county needs to continue evaluating the current financial situation, increasing revenue, prioritizing spending, implementing efficiency measures, reviewing grants, addressing structural issues, and regular monitoring and review are key strategies to reach budgetary balance. A balanced budget ensures financial stability and will allow the county to effectively allocate resources, stimulate economic growth, and provide essential public services.

Now none of this is to say it will be an easy task, but it must happen. I have no grand illusions that the job will be an easy one. There are many factors involved in producing a reasonable and balanced budget. These ideas are just a few that I have and by no means equate to “problem solved,” but all of these ideas can work if the leadership works together. I have proven myself to be such a leader. I am always willing to work with others and collaborate on ideas.   

Understanding that compromise is always part of the equation. One must also have the clout to initiate change. It takes three votes to change and chart a new course. One voice cannot do it alone. Being willing to constantly hear the other side and consider those ideas is how things get done. I have been part of the positive change in the City of Fort Bragg for over six years. If elected, I will be part of the positive, forward-thinking change needed in this county. 

Bernie Norvell

Candidate for Fourth District Supervisor

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  1. Mostly plagiarism from Guidelines for Public Expenditure Management-Section 3…
    Possible some ChatGPT in there also.
    The rest is Bernie confirming he will be doing nothing much to make any difference, working and getting along with the others on the Board.
    He reminds us twice that he alone was the savior of Fort Bragg.
    Biggest RED FLAG is no out front statements regarding his stance on COLA’s for the front line workers.
    Anyone running to replace the current crop of do nothing Supervisor needs to take a stand aligning themselves with the hard working folks who are the backbone of this County.
    I mean come on, really? Get rid of Curtis and cut Executive Management by half.
    Gut the Camille Schrader Continuum of Care to the bone. Enough nonessential nonsense!

  2. This guy has been an insufferable fart sniffer on FB city council, and he’s only going to get worse once he’s a supervisor.

    Bernie has to write shit like this all the time because it’s all he can deliver: buzzwords and empty platitudes.

  3. Sounds like excerpts from a freshman level book on finances. It’s quite embarrassing to witness. The County doesn’t lack for good ideas but does lack the collective will power to put them into coherent action. Despite his flowery rhetoric, I expect him to be, if he is elected, another unproductive Supervisor who thinks the job is about being nice to his colleagues, not about getting results.

    It is very true that the County’s top line needs to stop shrinking and grow. Everyone knows this and that the excessive CA regulations the stymie all constructive projects. The kind that leads to economic growth and more revenue for the County. The Little Hoover Commission just held four meetings on the subject and who among our current or future Supervisors gives a wit?

    There is an old joke that applies to Mendocino County. What is the difference between the Little League Baseball and Mendocino County? The answer–Little League Baseball has adult leadership.

  4. Bernie, you’re a good man.
    need to know will that oath you take, like i once took, be taken seriously, unlike bow tie ted’s. i asked him that same question once ..the funny thing was the crickets i heard after.
    i would only add that the 2nd A is part of that and becoming ever more important given the times. yet it is more and more thrown under the bus. will you carry the water or throw it under the bus? it seems our good sheriff does not honor it. asking for a friend.

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MendoFever Staff
MendoFever Staff
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