County Budget Planning

The budget problem the county faces impacts one of the most precious of its charges, the care of the American River Parkway, which continues facing severe public safety and maintenance problems.

The Parkway is falling behind $1.5 million annually in daily operational costs, and needs $8.5 million annually for the next ten years for public safety, facility upgrades, and land acquisitions. (2006 American River Parkway Financial Need Study Update, p. viii, http://www.sacparks.net/our-parks/american-river-parkway/financial-needs-study/index.html )

The strategy we advocate to address this is for the Parkway adjacent communities and the County, to form a Joint Powers Authority to oversight a contract with a nonprofit organization to provide daily management, ensure public safety, and build a financial endowment for supplemental Parkway funding. Using nonprofit management and the non-coercive strategy of philanthropy rather than the coercion of increased taxation is appropriate for a beloved community resource, and a strategy which has had great success enriching many public spaces including Central Park in New York and the Sacramento Zoo. (See our strategy on our website: http://www.arpps.org/strategy.html )

Editorial: Who’s planning?
Sacramento governments on troubling path
Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors skipped an important tradition this year. It didn’t get a written report in public session from its financial staff that forecasts future budgets. The board should get back to its tradition of looking at the numbers in public and planning ahead. And, in chambers just down the street, the Sacramento City Council should embrace this same custom.

The county’s financial staff normally gives supervisors a useful glimpse into the future in a budget report every January. In January 2006, the staff, making a variety of reasonable assumptions, estimated that supervisors would have to make more than $300 million in budget cuts by 2011 if they didn’t begin to make permanent reductions in spending. This wasn’t pleasant news, but it is an important message for government leaders to hear — again and again. If the revenues aren’t going to be there (for whatever reason), reducing the base budget can be a more prudent alternative to maintaining a budget that is simply too big for accounting shifts and other tricks to paper over.

This January’s report didn’t include the budget forecast information. (Why not? Our suspicion is that it had to do with not drawing attention to an effort in Arden Arcade to leave the county and create a new city.) The numbers (again, based on lots of assumptions; forecasting can’t be precise) suggest $280 million in necessary cuts in coming years unless the supervisors trim the base budgets that are driving these potential deficits.

A big problem is that a major funding source for local governments — property taxes — is sputtering. The real estate slowdown translates into modest growth in this revenue source.

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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