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Welcome to the Sonoma County Gazette ARCHIVE of PAST EDITIONS. Our NEW WEBSITE is up and running, so GazExtra is serving as your path to archived articles. Thanks for being part of our Sonoma County community...stay in touch...e-mail me - VESTA

Monday, June 27, 2011

OUR County

On the heels of our grueling Budget deliberations, it was great to find out about a new program available to low income qualifying Sonoma County homeowners which will provide solar installations at no cost.  The GRID Alternatives (Generating Renewable Ideas for Development) program is an effort spearheaded by the City of Santa Rosa’s Clean Energy Advocate program and Solar Sonoma County, a clean energy advocacy organization.

While most of us understand that we must make energy choices that are environmentally responsible, energy upgrades to our homes can be expensive and simply out of reach for families that already struggle to make ends meet.  The GRID program enables low income, working families to install solar at no cost!  Solar energy installation combined with weatherization can save as much as 75% on an average home’s electric bill while protecting you against increasing energy costs.  Solar can increase the value of your home while contributing to eliminating green house gases by harnessing the power of the sun…and supports job creation.  This exciting program is a win-win for our disadvantaged communities and the County of Sonoma as a whole.

To find out more about the GRID Alternatives program contact them at 866-921-4696 or the City of Santa Rosa’s Clean Energy Advocates at 707-543-3886.  The program began in the City of Santa Rosa, but is available to all qualifying County residents.

Now, back to the budget hearings…we have been meeting and discussing the repercussions of the diminished budget and its impact on our ability to deliver services since before the beginning of the year.  This is our 3rd year of major cuts to both staff and service delivery, and we faced cuts to service which are the most difficult and unpalatable to date.  This, coupled with the uncertainty posed by the State and Federal budget impact, which will surely have a further diminishing effect on our finances, made our task that much more painful. 

In the end, our County Administrator, Veronica Ferguson, and her hard working and diligent staff helped us to find a way to backfill some critical programs and services.  Some proposed cuts were unacceptable to the Board and to the public.  We unanimously adopted a $1.2 billion budget for 2011-12 which supports public safety, health and human services for our most vulnerable citizens, and invested in much needed road maintenance.

The $42.8 million gap was closed by:
• Program and Position reductions (171 jobs eliminated, resulting in 45 layoffs)
• Limited use of one time funds and reduced contingencies ($4.9 million)
• Improved sales tax projections ($2.9 million)

We were able to restore a number of critical programs through the use of one time funds and using ongoing revenues.  These included:
• Henry One, the County’s search and rescue helicopter program
• Restoring Human Services grant funding to prior year levels
Continuing Sierra Youth Camp, helping at risk girls become contributing community members
• Restoring the Veteran’s Service Office staffing
• Retaining a Victim’s Advocate at the District Attorney’s office
•  Funding the next phase of the Family Justice Center through restricted Tobacco Funds

On July 20th, State Controller John Chiang will partner with the County of Sonoma to present a Small Business Tax Seminar.  Details are still being worked out (time, location), but the meeting will offer an opportunity to understand changing tax laws, and strategies for growing your business using local resources and business financing incentives, as well as networking with fellow small business owners.  For more details, contact our office at 565-2241.

The 100th annual Monte Rio Variety Show will take place on July 28th.  This local secret is an amazing event, with world-class talent from the Bohemian Club of San Francisco providing the entertainment and all funds going to benefit the local community.  In its early years, celebs such as Art Linkletter, Merv Griffin, and Bing Crosby played…and urrent members such as Clint Black, Steve Miller, Roy Rogers, and Tom Scott continue the tradition.  If you’ve never been, you have to go!  If you’ve been, you’ll be there…for more information call 486-1739 or e-mail  Tickets are $25 for adults, I’ll see you there!