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Slush or aid to worthy causes? Placer supes split on $100,000 fund

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Placer County supervisors disagreed Tuesday on how best to oversee a controversial $100,000 fund they control that uses taxpayer dollars for charitable causes. Donations from the county’s revenue-sharing fund – dubbed a slush fund by critics – were put on hold two months ago as county staff developed new options intended to provide a new level of oversight in dispensing the money. On a 3-2 vote, supervisors decided to discontinue the moratorium on revenue sharing begun in the summer. Each of the county’s five supervisors has $20,000 from the fund. They can make recommendations that have normally been passed without discussion by fellow board members to provide money to charitable causes from Placer coffers. But in recent years, District 5 Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery and District 1 Supervisor Jack Duran, of Roseville, have questioned the expenditure. Montgomery’s predecessor Bruce Kranz also opposed revenue sharing. At Tuesday’s board meeting, Duran reiterated that the county should look at other budget priorities during leaner times. “If I write the check, what does that say about me if I don’t have the money to pay it?” Duran asked. Duran favored establishing a new county committee to field recommendations for revenue-sharing donations from supervisors. The committee would then vote on what worthy causes should be recommended to the board for final approval. But without support from Supervisors Kirk Uhler, Robert Weygandt and Jim Holmes, that option didn’t reach a vote. Instead, the three supervisors who support keeping board control over deciding on revenue-sharing funds voted in favor of an option Uhler had suggested that will result in applications for funding being posted on the county website. Each supervisor will now have a chance during a two-week window to view comments from the public on applications in their district and then decide whether to move a recommendation for money forward to the board, Uhler said. Uhler, who had agreed to the moratorium to explore new options, was adamant Tuesday that the board hold the decision-making power on the fund and that it remain intact. Uhler said that board members opposed to the fund or the process should be encouraged to continue to vote their conscience. “But revenue-sharing has proved a very effective way for the board to partner with essential service providers,” Uhler said. Uhler said posting applications on the website and inviting comments would provide a better level of transparency and supervisors would be able to post their justification for recommending funding to the board. Weygandt said the fund represented a small fraction of the county’s $360 million general fund budget. “Perhaps its strongest attribute is its streamlined nature,” Weygandt said. “And it’s very cost-effective and not bureaucratic.” The revenue-sharing fund was included in this year’s budget but Montgomery and Duran said after the vote that they’ll be designating their district’s allocation for use by the county’s Health & Human Services Department. “My direction is doing away with it entirely or suspending it until better times,” Montgomery said. -------------------------------------------------- Placer County’s top revenue-sharing recipients in 2010-11 * $6,000 Tommy Apostolos Fund fundraiser $3,000 Roseville Firefighters Local 1592 golf tournament $2,950 Placer Breast Cancer Endowment Fund fundraiser $1,750 Roseville Joint Union High School memorial golf tournament $1,500 The Gathering Inn annual crab feed fundraiser $1,500 Sierra College Foundation Taste of Excellence fundraiser $1,450 Lighthouse Counseling & Family Resource Center fundraisers *All Roseville donations were directed by ex-Supervisor Rocky Rockholm before Jack Duran was sworn in last January.