In an era of government layoffs and painful budget cuts, the Marin/Sonoma Mosquito and Vector Control District plans to increase spending by about 6 percent this year.
The board will vote on the proposed spending plan Wednesday night.
The majority of the $8.6 million budget will go toward employee salaries and benefits, which will be increased, along with other chunks to be spent on solar panels, new computers and trucks.
Precisely how the spending is changing at the district is difficult to pin down because it has issued four different proposed budget documents in the past month, and board members and the press were given different versions to review. Also, the dollar amounts listed for how much was budgeted and spent in an "approved final budget" for the year that ended June 30 have been changed in the various versions.
Board members delayed voting on the 2011-12 budget at their June meeting after several complained they weren't given enough information. Now, though, several said they were confident they would have enough information at Wednesday's meeting to vote.
"I think it's quite an interesting situation that we didn't get as much information as we usually do. It seemed like there was some miscommunication," said Tamara Davis, who represents Sonoma County on the board. "And typically we find that the manager keeps us well informed and gives us lots of information beyond what we're needing."
Jim Wanderscheid, the general manager who's responsible for the budget, said he prepared a brief budget document for the June meeting because that's what the budget committee directed him to do.
"It was just a miscommunication," he said. "There's no conspiracy to hide anything."
Wanderscheid also said he had not wanted to release a full, line-item budget before it was approved by the board because the working documents would contain numbers that would change, and that would confuse the public.
The budget proposal dated June 29 calls for $8.6 million in spending, a 6 percent increase over last year. The proposal calls for spending $1.3 million more than the district expects to receive in revenues.
The deficit spending is possible because the district is starting the budget year with a surplus of about $10 million.
The document projects that salary and benefit spending will increase 6 percent. That's because the district is in the midst of a four-year contract with its workers that provides a series of raises intended to make it more competitive with other mosquito districts in the state, said former board president Tom Bradner, who represents the city of Larkspur.
"Because of some pretty prudent management over the years, we have a little more flexibility than a lot of cities and counties do, and we felt it was wrong for our people to be paid less than what was sort of a standard in the industry," Bradner said.
The district also is planning to spend $240,000 for eight new trucks. Brander said the vehicles are used five days a week, so it becomes more expensive to maintain them than it does to replace them.
"How many miles were on the old trucks? Do they need replacing now? That's an issue," said board member Frank Egger, who has been critical of the district's spending.
Twenty six new laptops will be purchased for $38,000 because the district is getting new software to better track the locations of trouble spots and where the trucks are spraying, Wanderscheid said.