Pauli Halstead: Sales tax for wildfire prevention—do we really need it?

The Nevada County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to place “wildfire prevention, emergency services and disaster preparedness,” a half-cent sales tax, on the ballot of november. The aim of the measure would be to save lives by improving escape routes, reduce the fuel load, strengthen law enforcement regarding unauthorized camping and illegal campfires and improve preparedness. all-hazards disasters.

In the Enacted Budget, 2021-2022 Nevada County Board Strategic Goals and Goals, emergency preparedness services are already budgeted for. See pages 1-17.

“Lead the community in planning, preparing for, responding to and recovering from all hazards with a focus on wildfires. To do this, focus on improving countywide evacuation safety, continue to strengthen early warning and alert systems, create more defensible space around properties and roads, engage residents in emergency preparedness and fire safe land management, lead the community in recovering from federally declared disasters and mitigating the impact of public safety and power outage events running. »



The question then becomes: do we really need to add a sales tax increase amid rising food prices, high gas prices, and sky-high rents? Perhaps county elected officials, the CEO’s office, and department heads should consider reprioritizing current budget spending.

Message from the County Chief Executive: “Our mission is to work with the community to develop sound and innovative public policy, provide strong leadership and deliver excellent services in a fiscally responsible manner. —Alison Lehman.



Organizational Excellence: “I am committed to a high performance work culture to provide excellent public service that our residents expect and deserve. We continually seek to improve how we conduct our business as efficiently as possible. —Alison Lehman

Fiscal and fiscal policies: “As departments prepared their 2021-22 budget requests for consideration by the temporary ad hoc budget subcommittee, they were guided by fiscal and fiscal policies as adopted by the County Board of Supervisors to ensure prudent fiscal management of the county and the provision of a sustainable level of basic services to the public.

Expenses by cost category:

$118,357,482, salaries and benefits = 39%*

$83,851,022, services and supplies = 28%

$57,947,866, other costs = 19%

$12,079,969 overhead = 4%

$26,638,158, fixed assets = 9%

$50,275,522, other fundraising = 17%

($49,385,039), interfund activity = (16%)

$100,000, contingency = zero percent

$299,864,980, total expenses

* I’m not aware that in a normal company or business, payroll and benefits charges are 39%, that seems way too high.

$32.4 million, general fund balance

$25.7 million, total cost of county pensions

$41,079 = Nevada County per capita income in 2020

$74,158 = median household income

Annual salary of elected officials and department heads

Total compensation and benefits:

$460,469 County CEO Alison Lehman

$336,788, Deputy CEO

$413,249, sheriff

$388,191, director of information

$329,692, district attorney

$376,180, county attorney

$287,421, Chief of Probation

$368,816, Director of Community Development

$356,704, director of public works

$320,196, director of health and social services

$252,948, director of public health

$308,714, building manager

$288,673, director of planning

$277,017, Registrar of Electors

$282,041, treasurer-collector

$64,788, Supervisory Board

Contractor salary per resolution:

$486,627, new public health administrator, Dr. Sherilynn Cooke, who has an 18-month contract. The public health officer is not required to reside in the county.

Performance measurement:

Following the January Board Planning Workshop and the subsequent adoption of Board Goals, much effort is being made to identify initiatives and performance measures and allocate resources to those goals.

Are we maintaining the financial stability and basic services of the county as stated in the strategic goals and objectives of the council? These would be: emergency preparedness; economic development; broadband; cannabis; lodging; homelessness.

I am for fire safety. It is and must be a priority. Can we make improvements? Sure! However, given the salary gap between the county executive office and department heads, compared to per capita income and median household income, it is imperative that when the community votes on this measure, it takes into account prior tax liability.

It may be time to reprioritize the budget and demand more fiscal responsibility from our county leaders. Adding half a cent more sales tax to the burden of already overburdened households and businesses seems rather out of place.

Pauli Halstead lives in Nevada City

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