Revenue windfall surprises county budgeters

Daniel Mintz
Mad River Union

HUMBOLDT – Humboldt County’s revenue sources saw surprising increases this year and the trend is projected to continue as the Board of Supervisors readies to approve a new budget. 

At their June 8 meeting, supervisors reviewed a draft of the budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. 

It totals $505 million, an increase of about $40 million from the current budget. 

The county’s tax revenues saw surprising growth in 2021, a year that was difficult to budget for due to pandemic uncertainties. 

But Assistant County Administrative Officer Elishia Hayes told supervisors that sales tax revenues from general consumer goods and vehicles increased by 27 percent and 25 percent respectively during the first six months of 2021. 

The combined sales tax revenue increase from those sectors amounts to $660,000.

The current year’s budget projected about $9.5 million in Measure Z public safety sales tax revenue and the estimate was upwardly revised to about $11 million last March. 

Since then, Measure Z revenue “continued to substantially exceed even revised projections,” according to a written staff report, 

The new budget projects $12.5 million in Measure Z revenue. Much of it will be spent on maintaining the public safety-related positions established in original rounds of Measure Z funding. 

A slate of additional Measure Z projects for the coming year includes $1.9 million to the Humboldt County Fire Chiefs Association, $542,000 for an emergency communications upgrade project, about $150,000 for two emergency communications dispatchers and $290,000 to the Arcata Police Department for school- and youth-based “juvenile diversion” officers in the north county area.  

Measure Z funding items that were not prioritized for funding include sheriff’s deputy coverage for Trinidad and Blue Lake. It was believed that there wasn’t staffing available for the coverage but Madrone noted that deputies are in place for it. 

The county also has a federally-funded contract with CalFire for firefighting coverage and Madrone said about $60,000 of the contract allocation might be unspent and he proposed that it go to the “struggling” Westhaven Volunteer Fire Department. 

Hayes said that can be done and staff will make recommendations on the Trinidad deputy coverage and the Westhaven fire department funding during upcoming hearings on the new budget. 

The budget also includes about $13.5 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding which covers health and emergency response services, public sector revenue losses, and infrastructure costs. 

Requests for ARPA funding include $400,000 for the Arcata Community Pool. Supervisor Mike Wilson said the pool facility has been “hit hard by the pandemic and provides a huge value” to Arcata and also to surrounding communities like McKinleyville. 

During a public comment session, representatives of child health and welfare services agencies called attention to the county’s need for child care. 

Mary Ann Hansen of First Five Humboldt said that even before the pandemic, a majority of families in Humboldt couldn’t find child care. The pandemic resulted in the “decimation” of local child care, she continued. 

Kerry Venegas of Changing Tides Family Services said reopening will increase demand for child care services. There were 215 child care sites prior to the pandemic and now there are 157 sites, she continued. 

She asked for “proactive investment” in child care with ARPA funding. 

The county accepts funding requests from outside agencies and one of this year’s requests is from the county’s Harbor District, for $6 million. 

It will help match $56 million in federal funding for port infrastructure development related to development of offshore wind energy. 

Wilson said the sizable request “definitely raises eyebrows for sure” but responds to “a request from our community” to prepare for offshore wind energy development.  

During the public comment period, Larry Oetker, the Harbor District’s executive director, said the request is part of a larger national and state effort to deal with climate change. 

The state’s draft budget includes $11 million for Humboldt port upgrade funding and “we’re really just asking the county to join this partnership,” Oetker said. 

He described funding the wind energy-geared port upgrades as “a matter of urgency.” 

Supervisors agreed to have the district make a presentation on June 21, when two public hearings on the budget will be held. 

The budget’s adoption is set for June 29. 


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