Placer Housing Update and the 2013-14 County Budget
We’re finally seeing some positive signs of economic recovery in Placer County. The downturn hit hard in Western Placer County when property values plummeted. Many home owners found themselves paying mortgages that were much higher than their property was worth. Short sales and lender-owned and foreclosed properties became all too commonplace.
However, property values, as reflected by the county’s recent assessment roll, are increasing, up more than six (6) percent compared to last year. I am grateful that homeowners are starting to see relief from what had become an ugly reality for most homeowners.
On September 10th the Board of Supervisors gave the OK to the $715.2 million final county budget. While there are still some challenges, there is plenty of good news. We’re optimistic because of the county’s improving revenue picture, past board actions that have controlled costs and a long-standing policy that calls for maintaining prudent reserve and contingency funds.
Placer County prides itself on being fiscally conservative and planning for expenditures, rather than having to use one-time revenues to pay for ongoing services and expenses. Over the last few years, we had to dip into reserves to deal with the downturn. The recently approved budget is smaller than last year’s budget (2.1 percent). But we have begun to again build up the reserves and contingency funds.
We will continue to be cautious, keeping a close eye on cost drivers such as employee benefits, state and federal budget decisions that affect counties and the need to open the new South Placer Adult Correctional Facility in Roseville.
Earlier this year the Board OK’d a phased opening of the new 390-bed jail. That will start later this fiscal year. Construction of the $105 million facility was completely paid for with funds that were set aside before construction began.
Also noteworthy is that the County has begun using some different methods in the preparation and discussion of our budgets. One of the more important features is the use of plain language in the narratives that accompany the budget spreadsheets. While we obviously can’t get away from the numbers in budgeting, we can better explain where the funds come from and where they will be spent. I believe this will go a long way to making our process more transparent. This will give more of the public an opportunity to get involved in what the county does and why we do it.
This is part of what’s called priority-based budgeting and we will transition to this over the next few years. County departments will focus on how their programs serve the public and potential ways to measure their success. Priority-based budgeting is an approach that seeks to increase transparency in the budget process while helping ensure county resources are allocated based on board and public priorities.
I also want to mention that I have begun having monthly coffees in Roseville. These are an informal forum, usually on a Saturday morning, where residents can come and speak with me on any issue that is of interest or concern. District 1 Director, Cristina Rivera, also attends these meetings. She is bi-lingual so if anyone feels more comfortable addressing a topic in Spanish, Cristina can facilitate that. Please watch my website, sign up for the county’s weekly e-news or call my office to be informed about upcoming events.
Again, it is my honor to serve you. If you have a question, comment or concern, please call my office at (916) 787-8950, or you can send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.