Placer County Has Accomplished Much In The Last 4 Years (Part 2)
The following is the second installment in a two-part column by Placer County Supervisor Jim Holmes that looks at the county’s accomplishments in two critical areas: managing budget challenges and constructing new buildings facilities in North Auburn to accommodate the county’s growth and to replace outdated structures.
By Placer County Supervisor Jim Holmes
One of the most important achievements during my first four-year term on the Placer County Board of Supervisors may also have been one of the most challenging.
Working closely with the county’s management team, the Board of Supervisors has acted decisively to deal with budget challenges caused by the economic downturn and the state’s budget crisis.
We began cutting costs more than a year ago, and adopted a cost-cutting plan last December to handle a $9.5 million revenue shortfall this fiscal year. One part of that plan includes four unpaid days off spread over six months for approximately 2,200 employees.
On February 24, the board took a preliminary look at budget figures for 2009-10, approving several cost-cutting measures to head off a projected $18.6 million deficit. The cost-cutting measures included an understanding worked out during meetings between County Executive Officer Thomas M. Miller and management and confidential employees. In surveys distributed at the meetings, the two employee groups overwhelmingly agreed to accept 12 unpaid days off and two other concessions next fiscal year to avoid layoffs among their ranks.
Members of the Placer Public Employees Organization recently, voted to approve a similar plan that includes taking 12 days off without pay next fiscal year and accepting a lower cost-of-living wage increase as a means of preventing layoffs among the approximately 1,800 employees represented by PPEO. The plan will save at least 100 jobs.
Placer County also made significant progress during my first term reducing the unfunded liability for retiree benefits other than pensions, which collectively are known as Other Post-retirement Benefits or OPEB.
During the 2005-06 fiscal year, the county began setting aside money to fund this liability and committed to making an annual contribution to a restricted trust account to reduce the liability. To date this has reduced our liability from an estimated $328 million in a 2005 actuarial report to $231 million in the 2007 actuarial report.
The list of achievements over the last four years includes completion of several badly needed new buildings.
The county celebrated the opening of the Community Development Resource Center in 2006 and the Auburn Justice Center the next year. The buildings replaced the aging structures at the Placer County Government Center in North Auburn, commonly known as the DeWitt Center.
Last year, the county dedicated the Bill Santucci Justice Center in Roseville. The completed first phase includes a courthouse building with nine courtrooms and an office building that houses numerous county employees. The center was named after the late Bill Santucci, a former Roseville city councilman and mayor who served three terms on the Board of Supervisors.
In March 2008, the county celebrated completion of a new state-of-the-art emergency shelter for abused or neglected children.
The board also took an important step late last year in the county’s efforts to attract four-year universities to Placer County by approving the Regional University Specific Plan for 1,158 acres located in West Placer. Drexel University, a private institution home-based in Philadelphia, is studying the feasibility of opening a branch campus on this property.
The next few years will be challenging for Placer County because of budget constraints, but I am optimistic we will continue building a solid record of achievement that will serve the public well.