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County Notes (July 14, 2021)

A number of “retroactive” items are on next Tuesday’s Board Agenda, the kinds of high dollar value items the Board has complained about in the past as being both retroactive and on the consent calendar, making the Board of Supervisors irrelevant and removing the possibility that other options or costs could be discussed.

Then there’s this fishy one near the end of the consent calendar:

4ab). “Adoption of Resolution Authorizing a Title Change and Salary Revision of General Services Agency Director, Salary No. D46B to Director General Services Agency, Salary No. 6298; Re-Establishment of the Classification of Director Social Services, Salary No. 6214 and Amending Position Allocation Table as Follows: Budget Unit 5010 — Add 1.0 FTE Director Social Services.”

Come again? “Title Change and Salary Revision” of the General Services Agency Director. The title is being changed from “General Services Agency Director, Salary No. D46B” to “Director General Services Agency Salary No. 6298…” And no salary change numbers in the item’s title or description.

Back in March, based on credible info from a source at Low Gap, we wrote that an agenda item at that time proposed to create a Department Head position for Information Services. Item 5C on that agenda would create a Director of Information Services (Chief Information Officer) at a mere $278,678 (almost the cost of two deputies with patrol vehicles). The staff report for this items is a masterpiece of double talk including this gem: “The creation of the stand-alone department will not require the addition of any staffing resources at this time. With the Executive Office’s formation of a Fiscal and Administrative unit, this stand-alone department would be utilizing this unit to support the common departmental and administrative tasks, thereby reducing the common administrative overhead required of a stand-alone department.” Adding a highly paid Department Head apparently doesn’t count as additional staff resources. It’s just another unnecessary use of funds to reward a loyal insider. 

CEO Angelo has announced her departure for the fall of 2022 but speculation is building that she may be preparing to leave earlier. But on the way out she would like to create a soft landing for her loyal lieutenants, in this case Janelle Rau who serves as the CEO’s right hand. Ms. Rau may be capable in administrative tasks but lacks the basic qualifications to be CEO or CAO. And any incoming CEO would naturally want to pick their own second in command which would leave Ms. Rau out in the cold. Spinning Information Services off into it’s own department would provide the perfect landing spot for Ms. Rau. The entire item, including formation of a “Fiscal and Administrative Unit” within the Executive Office raises more questions than it answers.

* * *

That was last March. Now on to next Tuesday…

As far as we know no such “Director of Information Services” position was created back in March. Ms. Rau retains her present Deputy CEO title. But now CEO Angelo wants to make a meaningless change to the title of a director of an agency which is not even listed on the County’s website. (There’s a reference to “central services” but no department called “General Services” anymore.) According to an attachment to the “resolution” item near the end of the consent calendar “changing” the title (and there’s no other change in duties or organizational responsibility mentioned), the salary is being upgraded from a low base salary of $95-$105k per year to a much bigger base salary with a high of up to $157k per year. There’s no mention of who will fill the newly re-titled position with the much higher salary or why the change is being made nor why the job should now pay much more.

This one obviously ought to be pulled for Board discussion. But if history is any guide, it’ll get quietly approved just as the CEO presented it: Buried deep, deep down in a misleadingly titled item in an attachment near the end of the crowded consent calendar.

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CEO Replies To AVA Budget Inquiry

Mendocino County CEO Carmel Angelo replied to a series of budget questions we asked last week…

Good Afternoon,

Thank you for your inquiry. The very nature of your questions is the reason the County budget team has been hesitant to present a “budget to actual.” County Government is dependent on State, Federal, and grant revenue funding, which typically is billed quarterly or annually, and reimbursement is not received until at least 30 days after billing. This cycle of billing and reimbursement causes a delay in posting revenue, which impacts “budget to actual” reports produced on a monthly basis. 

I would like to reference back to the comments presented in the main part of my CEO report.

First item of note is there are several departments with lower than expected revenue which is causing them to reflect a deficit at this time. It is expected revenues from State funds and grants will be drawn down by the end of the fiscal year, to reduce or eliminate the gap.

Secondly, three departments, partly due to the wage increases over the last two years, have been able to hire and retain staff members. There currently are funds set aside in the miscellaneous budget unit to cover these costs, if a department is over budget on salaries and benefits

Third, as the department heads look to close year end, contractor and vendor invoices will need to be reconciled, which may reduce the surplus in some departments.

The County would expect to be at 88% of budget but is calculating 91% with the three major points above impacting year end projections.

Please note, the Auditor Controller will be working to close FY20-21 in August and September. The finalized budget reports for FY20-21 will available at 1st Quarter in the Fall.

Please see answers to your questions below.

AVA: The County Counsel’s office is projected to be 143% over budget ($924k budgeted vs. $1.3 million spent for an overrun of almost $400k. The reason offered for the overrun is “Benefits greater than budget.” Is there any detail available about that? We thought it had to do with higher than expected outside counsel costs.

A: There was a budget adjustment approved for salaries, however the corresponding adjustments to retirement and taxes were not accounted for as part of the approved budget adjustment. Based on 3rd quarter projections, County Counsel is projecting to be under budget by $51K at the end of FY20-21.

* * *

AVA: The Sheriff’s Department is listed as being about $620k over his $14.5 million budget (not counting the jail which is running a little under budget). Explanation: “Overtime and extra help greater than budget.” Again, how much of the overrun is overtime and how much is extra help and what was the extra help for? Also, what is the final Sheriff’s budget for the 2021/2022 fiscal year and how much overtime and extra help is budgeted?

A: Based on YTD May 2021 actuals, Overtime was over budget by $983,480. Based on YTD May 2021 actuals, Extra Help was over budget by $254,064. The question relating to the need for extra help, will need to be answered by the Sheriff's Office. Based on 3rd quarter projections, Sheriff's Office is projecting to be over budget by $1.9M at the end of FY20-21. FY21/22 Budget - General Fund impact $16,125,476: OT = $1,161,185. Extra Help = $250,00.

* * *

AVA: Probation appears to be on track to be way over budget at $2.5 million, $1.1 million over its allotted $1.4 million by the end of June. No explanation is offered. Is there any explanation?

A: When the report was presented, actual revenue (including inter-departmental) was less than budget. As noted on the report, any department with an asterisk had revenue less than budget (including inter-departmental revenue). Based on 3rd quarter projections, Probation is projecting to be under budget by $266K at the end of FY20-21, due to impacts related to COVID-19.

* * *

AVA: Planning and Building is listed as way under budget, running at less than 40% of its budget for this fiscal year. The explanation given is “Salaries less than budget.” Does that mean that the department is understaffed and therefore total salary expenditures are low? Or is the current staff being paid less than was budgeted? In either case, what is the plan for next year? Will the P&B budget reflect “salaries that are less than budget” again? Or will staffing and salaries be brought closer to budgeted amounts?

A: Due to numerous staff vacancies (approx 20%) related to retirements, and staff departures for other agencies, Planning and Building Services (PBS) is under budget on salaries, and associated costs for employees. PBS was also impacted by COVID-19, which slowed the ability to hire from outside the existing County staff. Since that time, PBS has been recruiting for all vacant positions and hopes to be able to fill a majority of the vacancies prior to the first quarter of FY 21-22, at which time we anticipate the projections and salaries coming into alignment. As for the plan, PBS is currently recruiting to fill positions.

* * *

AVA: The Health and Human Services Agency is not on the list. Presumably because they don’t expend any general fund revenues. But don’t they have a budget? Shouldn’t they be on the list? Will they be on future reports?

A: Yes this is correct, the report is only showing General Fund departments. Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) is not reflected on this list, as the only impact they have on the general fund, is a maintenance of effort agreement. A majority of their funding is through Federal and State allocations and/or grants.

* * *

AVA: Will any budget adjustments be made at the end of the fiscal year to reflect any of these (and other lesser) variations? 

A: Annual and quarterly actual revenue and expenses will be accounted for during the fiscal year end process. There will be no adjustment to the budget, only adjustments to the actual revenue and expenses.

* * *

AVA: Lastly: the Board referred the question of holding department heads personally responsible for their budgets to the General Government Committee. The next meeting of the General Government committee is set for August 9, 2021. Will that meeting agenda include that specific issue in the agenda?

A. Supervisor Williams and Mulheren set the agenda for General Government. I am unaware of the agenda topics at this time.

Thank you for the opportunity to explain these questions,

Carmel Angelo, CEO

Mendocino County

(Note: We forwarded the CEO’s response about the Sheriff’s department to the Sheriff for possible comment. As of Monday, July 12, we have not received a reply.)

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