Transfers of $197,991 from county departments made in December to fund the county’s cannabis program were not reimbursed when the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors were given the option Tuesday.

After the item failed to garner the necessary four votes, the board cut the request from its approved list of mid-year budget adjustments.

As of Wednesday, the unapproved budget for the commercial cannabis cultivation regulatory program, which consists of registration fees from prospective growers, contained $351,708, according to officials at the cannabis control office. Restricted to covering staff and equipment costs of processing applications, those funds can't be spent until four of five county supervisors authorize a budget transfer. District 1 Supervisor Gary Tofanelli and District 4 Supervisor Dennis Mills have remained opposed since November, when the operating budget and special fees budget were first brought to the board for approval. That was a few weeks after the board adopted a cultivation ordinance and associated background ordinance on 3-2 votes, which both supervisors voted against.

“This whole thing has not been right from the beginning,” Tofanelli said in the meeting Tuesday.

The county hasn’t seen the response it anticipated from cultivation applicants, Tofanelli said, citing initial revenue projections of $2.9 million in registration fees that haven’t been met.

Tofanelli said he didn’t feel confident “at this time” to support the reimbursements, but that that could change if a substantial amount of revenues come in by June budget discussions.

After his first motion to approve budget adjustments was shot down, District 2 Supervisor Jack Garamendi made a motion to approve adjustments without the reimbursements included.

“I don’t think it’s fair or responsible to make every citizen of this county pay for regulation that the people who are being regulated (have) already paid for,” Garamendi said. “I’m very disappointed that this fight continues, however the business of the county has to go forward.”

Mid-year budget adjustment requests passed on a 4-0 vote, with District 5 Supervisor Ben Stopper absent.

The Sheriff’s Office, in particular, received $336,740 in transfers, the largest adjustment of any department. The funding will allow the office to hire two new deputies for the Marijuana Enforcement Team (MET) and to cover the costs of outfitting patrol vehicles and replacing a Ford F-150 that was totaled in September.

That was an additional $171,000 from what administrative staff were recommending in the mid-year budget report.

Salary savings for the department has dropped substantially, with new hires to come onboard next month, Sheriff Rick DiBasilio told supervisors.

“On March 23 of this year, I will be fully staffed with the amount of patrol personnel that you have allotted me,” DiBasilio said. “That’s the first time in a long, long time.”

But it’s still not enough, according to DiBasilio, who said the department is still about nine people short from pre-recession staff levels.

The two new MET deputies will join the current five-person team, which eradicated 76 illegal grow sites last year, DiBasilio said.

“I believe it’s imperative that we enforce the illegal side so that the legal side (doesn't) get overrun like we did in 2016,” DiBasilio said.

Other requests supervisors approved included a $58,013 transfer to Animal Control Services to account for expenses incurred for unanticipated horse rescues in 2019 and a shortfall in dog license fees.

The Board of Supervisors’ budget was granted an additional $16,194 due to a shortage in monies for insurance that resulted from an error in personnel forecasting data.

The Butte Tree public budget received an additional $5,530 for incorrectly posted mutual aid costs in 2016.

In September, the board adopted its final budget with appropriations of $187.4 million and revenues of $166.4 million. The General Fund appropriation for the adopted budget was $73,669,977, with revenues of $61,469,252. The General Fund reserve was $5,311,806. General fund contingencies (funds for unexpected emergencies or revenue shortfalls) were established at $1,500,882 – about 2% of General Fund appropriations. After adjustments, contingencies are now at $1,092,199, according to Deputy County Administrative Officer Christa Von Latta.

The mid-year budget analysis includes numbers as of Dec. 31, 2019, the halfway point of the fiscal year.

As of that time, actual expenditures were tracking 15.2% below budgeted estimates for mid-year. Main cost drivers were employee salaries and benefits and supplies, which, respectively make up 44.3% and 30.9% of the budget.

The county had spent 35.8% of its total budgeted expenditures, about one point higher than this point last year.

Tracking closely with expenditures, revenue collection was at 37.7% of budgeted revenues.

Revenues were up $3,519,552 from last year because of an increase in tax revenues; an increase in operating transfers due to a $925,000 transfer into the Butte Road Recovery budget from Pacific Gas & Electric Co. settlement funds; and an increase in state revenues, the bulk of which was a $1.3 million increase in reimbursements to the tree mortality budget over the same period last year.

A prior version of this article stated that Tofanelli said revenues for registration fees were projected to reach $29 million. The story was corrected to reflect that he said $2.9 million.

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Reporter

Davis graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a degree in Environmental Studies. He covers environmental issues, agriculture, fire and local government. Davis spends his free time playing guitar and hiking with his dog, Penny.

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