Other Voices: Meeting financial challenges
This week the Board of Supervisors received a report regarding the county’s financial strength. On behalf of the county leadership, I am pleased to tell you that while there are challenges ahead, your county’s finances are in strong shape and prudent financial plans are being executed to meet those challenges.
We all make financial planning decisions daily. Many times you have to tighten your belt. It is prudent for us to put money away in good times in order to meet the challenges of the future. Your financial success is most often achieved over the long term. The leadership of your local government also makes those same planning decisions for our community.
Making financial decisions for county government is multifaceted. Of the property taxes you pay, 15 cents on the dollar goes for county services. The goal of your supervisors is to use this revenue to sustain services to you, the citizens. As prudent financial planners, we look to the future and key local economic indicators, and we put aside money in the good times in order to sustain services in the down turns.
The struggles in the real estate, construction, and other cyclical industries are just now impacting our community finances as property taxes lag what is occurring in the private sector. Most of the property in our county is still assessed well below market value because property taxes increase at most by a 2 percent inflation factor annually, or as property changes hands. When property changes hands, a new, higher value is established.
Since 2005, we have observed closely what is occurring in the economy and have set aside reserves to insure that services we all need and use can be sustained. Over the past four years, we have reduced staff positions from 1066 to 985 and have added positions, such as the 14 new front-line public safety positions added this year. We make these changes only when we are certain funds are in place to sustain them well into the future.
In addition, we are planning carefully to meet the needs of the next generation. Providing facilities for road operations, the district attorney, our sheriff and additional jail capacity to serve and protect future citizens of Nevada County is very much on our minds. We are making investments now at today’s costs and from current funds rather than encumbering future generations. In this way, your government is paying a dividend to the taxpayers.
Challenges remain. We continue to make certain that reserves set aside for slowed property tax growth are adequate; we are keeping pace with the needs of our citizens as our community changes by meeting the cost of new waste water regulations, paying fewer staff at an average market rate, motivating excellent customer service, and maintaining and improving our facilities and infrastructure. These are all critical challenges we will need to meet.
Planning ahead is not new nor will the need for it cease at any point in time. Fiscal prudence has been a hallmark of Nevada County for the past few years and your current leadership continues this responsibility. I read headlines from other counties that spend unwisely and then have to react with drastic measures in the downturns
We are fortunate to have a legacy that supports fiscal prudence and a board that believes in carrying on this legacy. We are carefully making only those expenditures within our means and seeing that prudent financial plans are implemented.
John Spencer is the chairman of the Board of Supervisors.
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