Merced County supervisors consider final budget, restructuring animal control

08/24/2014 6:23 PM

08/24/2014 6:29 PM

The Merced County Board of Supervisors are scheduled to adopt a final budget Tuesday, which includes a recommendation from county administrators to restructure the Animal Control Department.

County administrators projected a $2.3 million shortfall during proposed budget hearings in June, but the final budget has been balanced using one-time revenue and reducing department purchasing, according to county documents.

Spokesman Mike North said adjusted revenues and a higher-than-anticipated cash carry-over – the balance from previous years –were also factors in closing the deficit.

Three Merced County employees will be laid off, according to North. Two of the positions are at Castle Commerce Center, as a result of the AT&T call center closure. The third position is from the Fire Department and was eliminated because of an administrative restructuring.

The county’s final budget for 2014-15 is $489.2 million, up $21.4 million from the proposed budget. The county’s local resources, which include property and sales taxes, are $99.4 million, an increase from the $93.1 million estimated in the proposed budget.

According to county documents, a 20 percent increase in fines, forfeitures and penalties contributed an additional $500,000 to the fund, as well as a 2.3 percent increase in property tax.

As part of the final budget hearings, County Executive Officer Jim Brown will ask the Board of Supervisors to approve a plan to restructure the Animal Control Department.

Brown recommends having the Sheriff’s Department take over management of the department, which is currently under the supervision of the agricultural commissioner. The March retirement of Animal Services Manager Rick Blackwell prompted county leaders to look at ways to improve the department’s efficiency.

If approved, the plan would eliminate the animal services manager position and add one lieutenant to oversee the department, which would be funded out of the Sheriff’s Department budget.

Using the sheriff’s dispatch for animal control calls would free one additional animal control officer to provide field service, according to the proposal. Animal control officers would benefit from law enforcement training and access to a successful volunteer program, the plan said.

The restructuring would also build an increased presence in the county’s unincorporated communities through the potential reopening of a substation, according to county documents. It would also allow the agricultural commissioner to return his focus to weights and measures and other duties.

The Board of Supervisors will have its regular meeting at 10 a.m. Tuesday in its chamber on the third floor of the Merced County Administration Building, 2222 M St. The final budget meeting will begin at 1:30 p.m.

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