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County Notes (Dec. 26, 2018)

THE QUESTION of how to finance necessary roof repairs at the County admin center, the main jail, and the emergency operations center was magically solved on Tuesday by simply taking $1 million from reserves. 

SUPERVISOR John McCowen casually noted that this probably would not be a problem because he "believes" that there will be substantial "fund balance carry over" — meaning that even though there is no revenue or budget data to base his optimism on, McCowen is certain the county will spend less than what they’ve budgeted for general fund dollars and have some money left over (“carry over”) by the end of June of 2019. 

McCOWEN'S magical thinking looks like the pure speculation it obviously is. Things may become slightly clearer next month when the second quarter budget update is provided to the supervisors. 

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AFTER TWO-PLUS YEARS of Mendo’s pot permit program reporting, last Tuesday the Supervisors finally got around to trying to figure out what's holding up most of the permits. According to a partial review of the 454 applications claimed to be “under review,” most of them appear to be held up because the applicants have not provided some important information or the applications are sitting somewhere at the Regional Water Quality Control Board or the Department of Fish and Wildlife offices. 

SUPERVISOR McCOWEN declared that the 454 applicants stuck somewhere in marijuana limbo represented "progress," adding that the county is not the primary cause of permits being held up. Of course, this begs the questions of what took so long to figure this out? And, Where are the applicants having the most trouble? And, Why the state offices are sitting on the permit applications? Apparently, as far as Mendocino County is concerned, as long as they can blame others and not their overly complicated process, "progress" is being made. 

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DEPARTMENTAL BUDGET REPORTS ALSO DELAYED. CEO Carmel Angelo: “Departments continue to evolve in the completion of the Monthly Metric Dashboard reports. As this is a new request from the departments, it is requiring some additional education and development of the form to meet the desired goal of monthly reporting.” 

PREDICTION: Even if they ever “complete” anything like a “monthly metric dashboard,” it will provide no useful management information, just raw numbers with no context, no tracking, and no goals or objectives. Then they will call it done and pretend they’re actually doing “monthly reporting.” 

THE COUNTY’S new budget “portal” is very fancy and impressive if all you want to know is things like the County has budgeted just over $82 million for “public assistance” or is spending about $31.5 million on “roads and transportation.” But if you want to know where the money’s coming from to backfill the Sheriff’s overtime overrun which nobody seems to have any data on even though the “budget team” promised to track it monthly back in July when they first tried to zero it out and then put in a token $300k and left it alone to overrun as they please — then you’ll be looking for a long, long time. If you want to know how the cannabis program is doing budget-wise, you’ll be looking even longer. If you want to know how much the County might save through its magical whatever-we-want-it-to be “vacancy rate,” you’ll be looking for a long time. 

TAKE FOR RANDOM EXAMPLE, their “social services” graph. It seems to be saying that whatever the “department of social services” is, is spending about $47 million this year compared to about $30 million in 2011-12. Is that even true? Is it doing any good? Is the giant increase helping? What good is that chart? 

THE POINT? This OpenGov “portal” tells us — and the Board of Supervisors — very little of budget value; less, in fact, than before it existed because it’s taking up lots of time and money and effort to produce something useless when they should be doing ordinary nuts and bolts budget tracking and not wasting time pretending to be “transparent.” 

AND IF YOU WANT TO REALLY figure things out, you might try to track cost-drivers in each department and see how they track vis-à-vis the department budgets. Things like average jail stay, number of bookings, clearance rates for felonies — for the Sheriff’s department. Or total number of clients/contacts; or interview backlog for eligibility workers, number of child custody cases, etc. — for HHSA. Or number or road miles paved or resurfaced for Transportation. Or how about if you just want to know whether the DA is on, over or below budget through December? 

IT’S NOT THERE. And there is no indication that it will ever be there. (Remember a few weeks ago when Supervisor Gjerde simply asked for a list of all departments with their budget and their actuals to date? All he had been given was a summary of a few departments which were in the red, but he was told that some other departments were in the black and it might average out. Staff replied, “Sure. We’ll get you that.” But they have not. So the budget picture — in spite of being basically halfway through the fiscal year and in spite of all their new fancy charts and graphs — is the opposite of “transparent.”) 

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AMBULANCE EXCLUSIVE OPERATING AREA plans delayed indefinitely — again. From the Dec. 18, 2018, CEO Report: “On October 16, 2018, the Executive Office and Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) presented to the Board about the Local Emergency Medical Services Agency (LEMSA), various LEMSA models, and core LEMSA requirements. HHSA will be returning to the Board in early 2019 with a LEMSA update and proposed changes to the contract with Sonoma County for services through their Department of Health Services/Coastal Valleys EMS Agency (CVEMSA). The current contract with Sonoma County expires on June 30, 2019. Since the Board presentation on October 16, 2018, California’s Emergency Medical Services Authority (EMSA) has provided additional feedback and requested new information in order to approve Mendocino County’s RFP for an Exclusive Operating Area (EOA) for ambulance services. The County is working with CVEMSA and EMSA to provide this additional information with the goal of releasing the EOA RFP as early as possible in the new year.” 

One Comment

  1. Arthur Juhl December 27, 2018

    Mark, how can the BOS and CEO run the county without real knowledge of “how to read and understand a balance sheet?”

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