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Placer County girds for plummeting revenues

By: Gus Thomson Journal Staff Writer
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Placer County’s plummeting revenues will translate into a 9.4 percent plunge in spending during the current year, supervisors learned Tuesday. The county board voted unanimously to move ahead with a final budget figure of $784 million – a drop of $81 million less than the 2008-09 final budget. The pared-down budget reflects a variety of cost-cutting measures to off-set an economic downturn that has particularly hit a county that had experienced massive housing and population growth over the past decade. Jeff Bell said measures that have been taken since the downturn began have helped the county prepare for this year’s drop in revenue growth. Revenue needed to support county services declined over the past three years, from 8 percent growth in 2006-07, to 1 percent growth last year, to what is expected to be a 10 percent decrease this year. Measures include hiring restrictions Bell said ordering hiring restrictions two years ago, removing funding for vacant positions, instituting mandatory unpaid time off this year and directing departments to reduce expenditures have all helped to keep the county well-prepared for this year’s continuing drop in revenues. Supervisor Kirk Uhler voted with other supervisors to unanimously direct staff to prepare a final budget resolution for adoption at the next board meeting Sept. 22. He cited the efforts over an extended period of time to build up reserves and keep finances in check. “As bad as things are, it could be worse,” Uhler said. “We could be like some other government agencies and kick the can down the road to let another board grapple with the problem.” Chairman Rocky Rockholm praised the different county departments for “scrimping and saving” when asked to do so by the board. “They’ve all done it one way or another and done it incredibly well,” he said. Rockholm suggested the board could look at ways in the future to save on expenses, including travel expenses. That idea was supported by Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery, who suggested one way was to consider one-day meetings instead of two-day quarterly board sessions in Tahoe. That would eliminate the need for overnight stays for staff and board members in the Tahoe area. Instead, they would drive to the meetings and back in one day, she said. CEO Tom Miller said that he’d look into the possibility of a one-day Tahoe meeting in October, when the agenda appeared to be a light one. He added that the meetings over two days also give county government an opportunity for more contact with residents of that area.