Rural counties fear budget ax
Political snags in the state budget process have caused rural county leaders to worry their funding could get axed to clear an impasse that continues to divide Senate Republicans and Democrats.
In a letter to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nevada County Supervisor Sue Horne, as chairwoman of the Regional Council of Rural Counties, asked that previously negotiated Williamson Act funds and rural sheriff’s grants be retained in the final budget.
“We understand that, as a way to bridge the gap between Senate Republicans and Senate Democrats, an examination of all funding for programs – including those relied upon by county governments – is being made,” reads Horne’s letter, dated Tuesday. “Further reductions or eliminations to county programs will only exacerbate what is a tough budget for county government.”
The letter comes more than a month into the state budget crisis.
But the letter “is not late. We’ve been at the table all along,” Horne said. The RCRC sent the letter when it became clear the impasse could cost rural counties what they had already negotiated, Horne said.
“It’s not that we haven’t done anything and we’re running around like rats on the Titanic,” said Paul Smith, the rural council’s director of legislative affairs.
Money would fund more deputies
The $500,000 rural sheriff’s grants “are a big chunk of change,” crucial to rural law enforcement, Smith said.
In Nevada County, the sheriff’s grant would be spent for three new deputies, equipment and other budget needs for the current fiscal year, Nevada County Undersheriff John Trauner said. County supervisors have promised to fund the deputies out of the general fund if the grant does not come in, Trauner said, but that would hurt the bottom line.
“The outlying areas is where we need the deputies,” Trauner said, including North San Juan, Washington and the Greenhorn Creek areas.
The Williamson Act funds are money the state replaces for counties that lose proceeds when farmers and ranchers get property tax breaks for keeping their land agricultural. The funds are not extremely important to the Nevada County budget, Horne said, but could really impact the state’s heavily agricultural counties if lost.
To see Horne’s complete letter, log on to TheUnion.com and click on this story.
To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail email@example.com or call 477-4237.
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