County Budget Notes (March 11, 2020)

THE SUPERVISORS will get a “mid-year budget presentation” (including a preview of next fiscal year, July 2020 to June 2021) on Tuesday, March 10. The CEO's razzle-dazzle Powerpoint slides start off with the dates for some upcoming “budget workshops” on May 5, and June 9, and power on through “goals and mission,” with a discussion of Supervisor Williams’ “zero based budgeting” proposal as against the CEO’s preferred “Accountability-based budgeting,” an even sillier term apparently made up by the CEO and her staff to offer to the Board as an alternative to Williams’ idea. There’s also a discussion of “Phase 1 Strategic Plan,” “Goals and Priorities,” and some other equivalently vague financio-ese.

BUT THEN CHART #8 … After forecasting “Economy stable but no growth,” we see “LOOMING RECESSION..”

HEADS UP BOARD: A “looming” economic downturn will turn Mendo’s budget into a sort of ever-contracting Rubik’s cube, making all the other budget mumbo-jumbo irrelevant. We assume that the CEO and her staff are referring to the CoronoVirus which is expected to create a national recession all the way down to Mendo's budget squeeze, mainly from decreased tourism. If the 08/09 recession is any guide, this means local layoffs, delays of capital expenditures, contract reductions, and other large cutbacks.

BUT NOT FOR MANAGEMENT. Another item on the CEO’s agenda is under “Discussion and Possible Action Regarding Salary Disparity Issues within the Health & Human Services Agency (HHSA) Due to 2017 and 2018 Salary Adjustments, Including Adoption of Resolution Authorizing Salary Adjustments.”

TRANSLATION? The “disparity” means that in the name of “fairness” taxpayers have to give more money to their overlapping, highly redundant sub-directors in HHSA so that they achieve “parity” with the Supes and CEO, the Supes and the CEO having given themselves raises in recent years (those “2017 and 2018 salary adjustments”). See how that works? We give ourselves raises because we are so important that we deserve it with minimal discussion or reason (other than “parity with other counties”). Then, top staff below us have to get comparable raises because, golly, we can’t exclude them from the raise party we held for ourselves! That would be unfair!

ACCORDING to the CEO’s accompanying chart, twelve top HHSA officials — Chief Operations Officer, Assistant Directors for Social Services, Public Health, Administration, Behavioral Health, Children’s Social Services, five “Senior Program Mangers,” and the Deputy Director of Public Health Nursing” — need a total of $135k in raises to bring their total collective cost (salary and benefits) to almost $2.7 million — for just twelve (12!) HHSA bureaucrats! That’s about $225k per needless bureaucrat. (Maybe a few Mendolanders remember back in the early 2000s when the three separate HHSA departments — Mental Health, Social Services, and Public Health — were “consolidated” to reduce redundant top-staff costs, only to produce more of it.)

SO, IN THE FACE of the "looming recession" we have the CEO laying it right out there that because of a “disparity” they themselves created they have to pay 12 more top people $2.7 million so that those twelve people can sit on top of a few hundred helping professionals so that Mendo’s tens of thousands of poor people can keep getting their monthly pittances in Medi-Cal and food stamps, plus the huge unaccountable mental health services contract and the occasional short-term motel voucher.

AND IF THAT’S NOT ENOUGH the CEO has now created a budget unit called “Measure B staff unit” within the CEO’s office which means, as we predicted recently, that the 2.25-person unit now in place will soon be four people (and counting), all by themselves soaking up at least $300k per year for the totally unaccountable, vague “management” of Measure B funds which should be going to services and facilities. *If this sucker is going down, we're gonna get ours first!* If you’re wondering why the “Measure B staff unit” is necessary, simply refer back to former Sheriff Tom Allman’s remark at the last Measure B meeting:

“The project manager and the other [additional] employees are going to be able to adequately present it [“it” being undefined] to the committee and the public so we understand where we’re going. We don’t need a road map. We have a road map. But the specific projects that need to be accomplished, there’s not government staff to say, Go do that. And if we don’t have the right people, in 50 years from now we can look in the rearview mirror if we’re still alive and say we squandered a whole bunch of money. So we are trying to spend it appropriately, but we have to get the right people into the right jobs to answer to you and answer to us that we are doing the right thing.”

PS. And then there’s this little budget intro note: “At Mid-Year FY 2019-20 the Budget team notes, while most departments are doing well and are managing their 2000 series (operational expenses), several smaller departments are in need of additional funds.”

And how much are those “smaller departments” over budget and how much will they “need’?

FROM THE MID-YEAR BUDGET PRESENTATION:

Summary of General Fund Departments Projections by Budget Unit (This summary provides information on General Fund budget unit projections for end of year (EOY) of FY 2019-20 and only includes those departments that are projected to come in over their NCC assignment.)

County Counsel anticipates being over budget by $91,893. Due to legal representation in the CPUC proceedings.

Facilities. At the end of the 2nd Quarter, the division had unbudgeted expenses for the PSPS rental generators and parks needs assessment [a complete waste of money because none of the “needs” will ever be attended to — ed], as well as under realized departmental reimbursement that attributed to increase in expense. The division was unable to absorb the 6% reduction to their 2000 series. The total projected over budget for this department is $116,955. 

Public Defender. At the end of the 2nd Quarter, the department has expended just under 50% of their 1000 series budget. However, with a new labor agreement coupled with increases to salaries, the department is projecting to be over budget by $107,777 in the 1000 series at the end of the fiscal year. 

Conflict Defender. The Conflict Defender is projecting to be $114,600 over budget due to legal fees for representation of defendants that are in conflict with the Public and Alternate Defender’s office. 

Sheriff-Coroner. At mid-year, the Sheriff’s Office now projects their budget will be $792,375 dollars over budget. 

County Jail. At mid-year, the County Jail now projects their budget will be $677,422 over budget. 

Juvenile Hall is projecting to be over budget by $128,620 due to the increase in staff salaries, as well as the 6% reduction to the 2000 series that was implemented at FY 2019-20 Budget Adoption. [Ed note: Juvenile hall averages 10-15 delinquents and costs over $2 mil a year.)

The Probation Department is projecting to be over budget by $166,485, due to the staff salaries increase. The department is also projecting a 10% reduction in revenue that will be offset by the reduction of reimbursable expenses. [Ed note: we have no idea what this means.]

Animal Care is projecting to be over budget by $230,767. This projection is due to a decrease in revenue, from pending contracts with local cities, Ukiah, Willits and Fort Bragg for services provided potential revenues of $300,000. [Ed note: we have no idea what this means.]


Total over-budget in the “smaller departments”: Approximately $2.5 million.

PS. The Executive Office is not listed in this over-run list but it is made up of the CEO and nine or so others, and costs about $900k a year including the CEO who alone makes about $200k a year plus about $115k per year in benefits. Four years ago that same budget unit cost about the same, but they had more staffers than now. 

PPS. The Board of Supervisors itself now costs about $800k per year in salary and benefits (plus generous non-salary perks like travel and training, etc.). Four years ago that same budget unit cost about $500k per year in salaries and benefits. 

Together, the salaries and benefits of the CEO’s office and the Supervisors is more than the total amount of money expected to come in from Measure D, the highly touted measure that was supposed to show us that Official Mendo is so supportive of fire and emergency services that they put a measure on the ballot that wouldn’t even cover themselves, but might go to the fire services — if these two grotesquely overpaid offices choose to follow the “advice” of Measure E after they cover the looming recession and a $2.5 million overrun in a few “smaller departments.”

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