Lake County budget scorched by recent disasters

Jun 13, 2017

Even before the destructive wildfires of the last two summers, the County of Lake was considered to be one of the poorest governments in California. And now, taking those impacts into account, the financial problems have become even worse.

Those woes were expressed Tuesday at the Lake County Board of Supervisors’ preliminary hearing on the budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year. There, county finance staffers reported that the Valley, Rocky and Clayton Fires and the flooding of this past winter have cost the county more than $26 million.

While the county will get a lot of help from the state, it still has put up a significant portion of the money.

“I don’t think there’s any other county in California that’s looking at a stack of disasters quite like we are in the past year-and-a-half. The impact on our finances is incredible.”

That was County Administrative Officer Carol Huchingson. Her staff reported the destruction has also significantly impacted future transient occupancy tax or hotel tax revenues. Currently, totals are $150,000 below pre-disaster levels.

This tax and other major revenue sources add up to be about $7 million short of the necessary allocations for the $55 million general fund. Other factors of the shortfall include: rising costs of labor contracts and pension payouts.

To offset the difference, staff is proposing to eliminate more than 20 vacant positions and use some reserve funding which was used last year.