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Humboldt budget review reveals $12 million shortfall; sheriff concerned about budget cuts

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Humboldt County will enter the next fiscal year with $12.29 million less to spend on county services, according to the county's mid-year budget review. This has some department heads concerned about how budget cuts will hinder their abilities to provide essential services to the community.

"I just really want the community to be aware of that — that this is on the horizon, and the board needs to make some tough decisions over the next several months in order to prioritize essential services within the county," Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsal said.

A staff report presented at Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting revealed a sharp decline in sales tax revenues, and recent inflation is hitting the budget hard.

"They want to cut our budgets by 10% — have a 10% vacancy rate, which is our personnel costs," Honsal said.

According to Honsal, this will directly impact his office's staffing, which includes deputies, jail staff and sub-departments like the Office of Emergency Services. Honsal said these jobs play a crucial role in the community.

"We don't want to show our community that we're not available to respond to those issues that occur out in the community, if law enforcement or the Sheriff's Office isn't funded. So that was my biggest concern," Honsal said.

Budgets were also cut last year, but the HCSO was able to continue functioning as usual after receiving federal funding through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Now, it is unclear where additional funding will come from, Honsal said.

Honsal shared his concerns with the supervisors at Tuesday's meeting.

"I come to you today as a nervous department head elected official here," Honsal said at the meeting.

Also at the meeting was the county's public works director, Tom Mattson, who shared similar concerns to Sheriff Honsal's.

"It's time to really rein in what we're doing," Mattson said.

The board ultimately approved recommendations to provide the county administrative officer direction on policy to develop the budget and to appoint two board members to a budget ad hoc committee.

"I'm sounding the alarm today for us to take this very, very seriously," Honsal said.

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Supervisors Michelle Bushnell and Natalie Arroyo took on the responsibility of leading the budget committee, which will help develop the budget.

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