Retreat a bad idea at a bad time
As you read this, many of the top managers of the Nevada County are beginning their second day of a budget retreat at a hotel in Placer County. Last week, county officials said it would cost $30,000; this week, they say $18,000 – a fairly big swing for those who consider $12,000 to be real money.
Ever since Supervisor Sue Horne blew the whistle last week, Nevada County taxpayers have let their supervisors know that they think spending this kind of money during an economic downturn is a bad idea. And it’s a manifestly bad idea, they say, to spend that kind of money out of the county.
While the high-priced retreat will be a political issue for months to come, the supervisors and their staff should be thinking about ways to keep these situations from arising in the future.
Look at the sheet reproduced to the right. It’s the budget for the county’s administration office, the budget the supervisors – including Horne – voted to approve last autumn. Somewhere in those numbers is $30,000 (or $18,000) for a three-day management retreat in Placer County. See it? Neither do we. Neither did the supervisors, other than those who served on the board’s budget subcommittee, before they voted.
Supervisors who may have wanted to question the expense didn’t do so in a time when it might have made some difference.
The county administrator looks as if he’s trying to pull a fast one.
The taxpayers wonder who’s minding the store.
Supervisors publicly question their top staff guy, and the top staff guy finds himself in public disagreements with his boss.
All in all, it stinks.
We’d hope that this episode leads to increased discussion by the entire Board of Supervisors, not just its budget subcommittee, of the major elements that make up department budgets. And we’d hope that the administrative team would go out of its way to spotlight budget items that are political hot potatoes that the board should know about.
Bosses need to support their staffs; staffs need to protect their bosses from surprises. On this retreat, the county missed on both scores.
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