Lois Henry

Wednesday, Mar 27 2013 03:00 AM

LOIS HENRY: Good thing we're not counting animals on the ark here

By Lois Henry

We really should stop using the term "budget" when referring to government intake and outgo of our tax dollars.

I think "money unicorn" is a more accurate description of how most politicians view government funding.

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Lois Henry hosts "First Look with Scott Cox" every Wednesday on KERN 1180 AM from 9 to 10 a.m. The show is also broadcast live on www.bakersfield.com. You can get your two cents in by calling 842-KERN.

And none other than Kern County Supervisor Mike Maggard recently illustrated my theory to perfection.

On Monday, Maggard made an appearance on the new program "First Look with Scott Cox" on KERN 1180 AM and at www.bakersfield.com. It's being produced jointly with The Californian.

During that show Maggard said three new non-budgeted Animal Control positions (which cost $273,000) approved by Supes last week weren't "off budget." This was just money that had been "shifted," he said.

"Things get talked about and they get twisted a little bit and they're not exactly as they appear, I think," he said of the stories (mine) about those new positions.

He said supervisors last year budgeted for a whole new department, as Animal Control had previously always been under the wing of other departments.

So, the new department needed "something like 17 positions" that supervisors didn't pin down exactly so "there would be room to flex into what those right programs would be and we'd be able to hire the right people as we got there."

Some of that money got shifted over to these new positions. So, the three new positions aren't really new, or off budget, he said.

"It's just a different allocation of the same funds," he said.

No. Sorry. Not true.

He was also wrong as to last year's approved positions, which were, in fact, given specific classifications and codified by ordinance.

Last August, Supervisors added 14 (not 17) positions to Animal Control's 2012-'13 budget, which the department is currently operating under.

Those positions are: 3 registered veterinarian technicians; 1 senior animal care worker; and 10 regular animal care workers.

Not all of those positions have been filled yet.

The positions Animal Control Director Jen Woodard sought and got approval for on March 19 were a fiscal support supervisor and business manager ($198,398 a year combined) and volunteer coordinator ($74,998 a year).

They were listed on last week's agenda as "non budgeted," meaning they are not funded in the current budget.

County Administrative Officer John Nilon confirmed the three new positions were "in addition" to the 14 positions funded last August.

Now, Woodard did say, because she hadn't filled all the previous 14 positions, the new jobs could be paid for this fiscal year out of the "savings" from those salaries.

The thing is, once all the positions are filled, including the three newbies, there will, of course, be an impact -- a $273,000 impact -- that was NOT included in the original budget.

As I said before, classic governmental budget creep.

I have no idea why Maggard would try to confuse the issue by saying the new positions weren't "off budget."

Yes, they were.

Maggard didn't vote to approve the positions. He was gone that day. It was a 3-1 vote with David Couch abstaining.

I wanted to ask Maggard why he's now trying to repaint the picture on these positions but he didn't return my call.

If it seems like I'm irritated and being somewhat of a stickler, well, yes, I am.

I just wish our representatives were the same.

Opinions expressed in this column are those of Lois Henry, not The Bakersfield Californian. Her column appears Wednesdays and Sundays. Comment at http://www.bakersfield.com, call her at 395-7373 or e-mail lhenry@bakersfield.com

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