Supervisors cap spending on ceremonies

RIVERSIDE, Calif. - Saying they want to ensure taxpayer funds are spent conservatively, Riverside County supervisors today approved limiting the amount of money that can be expended on groundbreakings and other ceremonies for county projects.

``We need some guidelines,'' Supervisor Jeff Stone said. ``We don't need to host big parties to tout our accomplishments.''

Stone and Supervisor John Tavaglione proposed a policy titled ``Celebrate Infrastructure Additions Uniformly,'' or CIAU, under which all expenditures for a groundbreaking, ribbon-cutting, grand opening or other county-sponsored function would be capped by formula.

Though he agreed to attach his name to CIAU, Tavaglione expressed qualms today, initially refusing to back the proposed policy because he felt it was too overbearing.

``Rather than put a limit on this, why not just leave it up to each board member (to decide what's appropriate)?'' he said, recommending that all requests for funds to pay for celebratory events be subject to a four-fifths vote of the Board of Supervisors.

Tavaglione also took issue with Stone's suggested formula for determining where to draw the line on spending for project completion parties.

Stone said that in order to keep costs ``within reasonable parameters,'' the amount expended on a groundbreaking or other event should be held to 0.3 percent of the total project budget -- and never exceed $7,500.

A ribbon-cutting for a county facility that underwent $400,000 in renovations and upgrades, for instance, would be limited to a $1,200 budget.

Supervisors Marion Ashley and Kevin Jeffries lauded the proposed caps.

``Guidelines are critically important,'' Jeffries said. ``That way we know the rules of engagement in advance.''

He proposed capping groundbreaking expenditures at $2,000 or less.

``There should be controls over this,'' Ashley said. ``It's better to have a target out there.''

Tavaglione conceded that limits were a good thing, but stuck with his original call for a four-fifths vote on budget requests to cover the costs of ceremonies.

The board voted unanimously to impose the caps -- and require a four-fifths vote for any funding requests that exceed $7,500.

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