Humboldt County to conduct budget review: Supervisors look to close $2 million gap

During the annual mid-year budget review at its Tuesday meeting, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors will discuss closing a $2 million dollar gap.

According to the report compiled by County Administrative Officer Phillip Smith-Hanes, county expenditures such as the 2 percent raise for county employees in 2013 and increased health insurance and retirement expenditures have led him to make a "less-than-optimistic forecast" for the 2014-2015 fiscal year budget.

"General Fund spending needs to be reduced by $2 million to balance the 2014-2015 fiscal year budget," the report states. "At this time, revenues will not cover expenditure increases in (fiscal year) 2014-2015."

Based on the mid-year review, the county is currently slated to have a $3.7 million budget for the next fiscal year, which will be matched by a shortfall of $3.6 million, leaving only $100,000 for the 2015-2016 fiscal year.

"Given the continuing imbalance between revenues and expenditures in the General Fund, it is not fiscally responsible to budget leaving only an estimated $100,000 for a future fiscal year," the report reads.

A number of unanticipated expenditures throughout several county departments have also contributed to the $2 million budget gap. The report states that nearly $460,000 will be taken out of the General Fund because several county departments "did not recognize" the increase in health insurance costs "while analyzing their budgets during the mid-year review."

Increased use of "extra-help" and overtime in the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office is also expected to cost the county $238,398, according to the report.

First District Supervisor and Board Chairman Rex Bohn said that the county will have to do a "little bit of belt-tightening," while maintaining necessary services such as public safety and infrastructure.

"As this moves forward, hopefully the economy will get better sooner than later," Bohn said. "We want to keep the staffing that we have now if at all possible and ensure that our people keep working so that we don't get into a layoff stage."

Second District Supervisor Estelle Fennell wrote in an email that the county must take the state of the state and federal economies into perspective.

"Given the long term forecast and constantly changing demands from both the federal and state governments, we must look at our current situation as more of a 'new normal' than a temporary slump, and restructure our local government to be more efficient ... to meet our local priorities," Fennell said.

Smith-Hanes recommends that the board discuss and direct staff to implement policy and budget changes during its Tuesday meeting. Some of these changes include further delaying the June 30 renewal of 12 county positions, denying certain funding requests for county departments and redistributing worker's compensation and purchased insurance funds.

Fennell stated in her email that the board may also consider restructuring departments.

"We should look at combining some departments or combining services," she said. "I would hope that department heads could identify non-mandatory services and come up with constructive ideas that would lead to long-term savings."

The board will then hold a public hearing to discuss whether the county General Fund or property owners should bear the nearly $16,000 cost borne by the county to clean up a Samoa property. In 2010, an inspection of the property located on the 2200 block of Lindstrom Avenue found that it was in violation of several county solid waste and zoning codes such as storage of solid waste, junk vehicles and maintaining a junkyard.

After a fire destroyed the front portion of the property in June 2013, the board determined in September that the property was a "public nuisance" and gave the property owners 30 days to correct the violations. When the owners failed to do so, according to the staff report, the county used money from the Code Enforcement Trust Fund in October to correct the violations. Shortly after, the board received approval to give the property owners an abatement warrant to recover the costs.

The board is also slated to approve a request by the Kneeland Fire Protection District to place a special tax initiative to improve fire protection and prevention services on the district's June 3 statewide primary ballot. According to a letter from Kneeland Fire, the initiative would levy an $80 or $60 tax based on the classification of a district resident's land parcel.

If you go:

What: Board of Supervisors meeting

When: 9 a.m. Tuesday

Where: Supervisors' chamber, first floor, Humboldt County Courthouse, 825 Fifth St., Eureka

The full agenda can be viewed online at

Will Houston can be reached at 707-441-0504 or Follow him on Twitter @Will_S_Houston.