OROVILLE — The Butte County Board of Supervisors adopted a $415.3 million budget Tuesday, but did it on a 4-1 vote over $80,000 in last-minute allocations.
During the annual budget review, Chief Administrative Officer Paul Hahn gave the supervisors a detailed outline of the spending plan, which includes roughly static levels of both staffing and services.
The county suffers from a $3 million to $4 million annual imbalance between revenue and expenses, he told them. At the same time the proposed budget is balanced because there are enough funds carried over from previous years to cover the shortfall.
“Is it going to be tight? Is it going to be tough? Yes, but we are going to continue to go forward.” Hahn said.
“We are essentially maintaining service levels as they are. We are still going to be facing a continuing gap between our expenses and our revenue.”
The county was able to have a technically balanced budget partly because employee groups have agreed to contracts that require the workers to pick up a larger percentage of their own pension payments.
Beyond that, county employees haven”t had a raise in three years, and that cannot continue indefinitely, Hahn said. The county must “invest in the workforce.”
At some point, according to the CAO, property tax revenues — the mainstay of the county”s discretionary funds — will increase and that would have an impact on the revenue-expenditure problem. When that will happen is unpredictable.
After the proposed budget was outlined, a collection of supporters of the Butte Fire Safe Council asked the board to allocate $50,000 from reserves for the organization.
The council runs programs that create firebreaks, uses mechanical chippers to shred brush to make areas more safe from wildfires, administers various grants, and does outreach and community awareness to alert people to the need to protect themselves and their homes from fires.
The council has been able to secure $3.2 million in grants to further the group”s efforts, said Darrel Wilson, chairman of the organization.
Cal Fire-Butte County Fire Chief George Morris said, “I am very much in support of allocating a little bit of money to the Butte County Fire Safe Council.”
Supervisor Steve Lambert, who chairs the board, asked Morris if his support was strong enough that he”d pull the $50,000 for the group out of his own budget.
Morris said he knew Lambert would ask him that, and answered, “Frankly, if it required me to take $50,000 out of my budget to do that, I”d be willing to do that. ”
Besides the fire council, representatives of the Butte County Economic Development Corp. also sought a special allocation from the supervisors.
The corporation is a private nonprofit group that has been funded by the board in the past to encourage economic growth in the county.
Earlier in the day, Debra Lucero, executive director of the group, reported to the board on what had been accomplished with a $25,000 allocation it had been given by the county earlier in the year.
The organization has been successful in connecting contractors with local subcontractors, getting food businesses in contact with local growers, as well as producing websites designed to draw more business to the county. She asked the county for another $30,000 allocation.
Paradise Supervisor Kim Yamaguchi offered a motion approving the overall budget and the two special allocations that would total another $80,000.
Jokingly, he said he would “vandalize the car” of anybody who voted against the fire council funds.
Oroville Supervisor Bill Connelly seconded the motion, and it passed 4-1.
Lambert, while saying he was entirely in favor of the proposed budget, said he couldn”t support the additional $80,000. He explained there are lots of worthy nonprofits around and he just couldn”t take the step.
Staff Writer Roger H. Aylworth can be reached at 896-7762 or email@example.com.