Let’s Prioritize Economic Stability in Nevada County

As a candidate for the District 1 seat on the Nevada County Board of Supervisors and a fiscal conservative, I’m dedicated to sound management of taxpayer dollars. One of my biggest concerns is that the state and federal funding being received in Nevada County, which accounts for 47% of our budget, will rapidly pull back when the next recession hits. California is already reporting there is a $29 billion deficit for fiscal year 2023-24 and it’s estimated to elevate to $68 billion for fiscal year 2024-25.

Nevada County’s previous CEO, Rick Haffey, was known for being fiscally conservative, and he anticipated a recession was imminent. In 2003, he started the process of pulling back from Nevada County’s peak employment of over 1,000 full time employees and brought the total number down to approximately 800, which set our County ahead of the recession in 2008. After his retirement in 2018, the County’s new leadership has not only added more full time and contracted employees, they’ve also significantly increased total pay and benefits.

According to my research, some of Nevada County senior staff members’ total financial compensation has nearly doubled in the past eight years, and these increases were voted in with unanimous seals of approval by Supervisors in every single district. You can view the data I compiled HERE on my website or reference the snapshot below.

This is very alarming information, especially considering the fact that the majority of our tax-based revenue in Nevada County barely covers the cost of County employee’s pay and benefits, which is now 40% of the adopted 2023-2024 yearly budgetand climbing! 

You can research these figures for yourself on the Transparent California website, which features data related to County employee pay and benefits dating as far back as 2011. 

To add insult to injury, on June 14, 2022 the Board of Supervisors passed a resolution allowing Nevada County’s CEO Alison Lehman an exorbitant amount of discretion to continue increasing pay with annual bonuses up to 10%, and currently there is no community oversight on yearly budget decisions. You can view the resolution as well as a summary of current senior executives’ compensation for 2022-2025 on the County’s website.

Despite once believing our property taxes paid for core services countywide, such as Public Works, road maintenance, roadside brush clearing, striping, and snow removal, the unfortunate reality is that Nevada County is dependent on state and federal funding and grants to meet its core services obligations because after paying County employee’s pay and benefits, there’s nothing left! 

I love our community and believe we should be prioritizing core services while simultaneously ensuring we will be recession resilient. In order to succeed, we must keep economic stability at top of mind and have accountability in budgeting decisions, which I believe we can do by advocating for a community task force to participate in yearly budget negotiations and instilling measurable metrics for short, medium and long term economic goals.

To get us back on track, when elected as District 1 Supervisor, I will not vote to approve any further pay or benefit increases for Nevada County senior staff without first requesting a full review of senior staff members’ total compensation packages to compare how they stack up against neighboring counties with comparable populations and budgets. In the meantime, I’ve already started my own research, which you can view HERE.

As Supervisor, I also plan to find ways the County can invest in sound economic growth by actively working to attract corporations similarly to in the 80’s and 90’s with the Grass Valley Group and Mountain People’s Warehouse. Nevada County needs to be encouraging smart, sustainable growth by making it clear that our community is “open for business” and incentivising new business by making deals to postpone or waive CDA fees for the construction of new projects and/or the remodeling of existing infrastructure in order to pave a realistic way forward for new businesses so they choose Nevada County as their base of operations. Doing so will create a long term positive return on the County’s investment.

I truly believe we live in the best county in California, but I also know we can be doing better. If you’re as concerned as I am about our County’s budget and its dependency on state and federal funding to meet its core services obligations, please share this information with your neighbors, family, and friends. I also recommend planning to make a public comment about your concerns at the upcoming Board of Supervisors Workshop, which is taking place January 17-19, 2024. You can view the agenda for this special three-day meeting HERE. Together we can put Nevada County on a trajectory of fiscal stability, accountability, and sustainable economic growth.

Michael Taylor is a candidate for the District 1 seat on the Nevada County Board of Supervisors.

Article Sources: Transparent California is provided by the Nevada Policy Research Institute as a public service and is dedicated to providing accurate, comprehensive and easily searchable information on the compensation of public employees in California.