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More cuts for county staffing

Property tax revenues down for fourth straight year

POSTED September 13, 2011 9:47 p.m.

More layoffs came to the county on Tuesday, as the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors finalized their 2011-2012 budget, cutting nine positions in the process.

One of those positions, in the sheriff’s department, is currently filled.

“Once again, we’re living within our means and making very hard decisions on how to live within our means,” said Supervisor Bill O’Brien. “We just hope we can see bottom in this economy and start turning things around.”

The county’s property tax revenue declined a further 3.36 percent this year, marking the fourth consecutive year of property tax declines. In total, property tax revenue – which accounts for more than 60 percent of the county’s discretionary revenue – has fallen more than 22 percent in the last four years.

Since the 2007-2008 fiscal year, the county has cut nearly 1,000 positions, shrinking from 4,603 full time positions to 3,607. Tuesday’s budget reduced one employee, unfunded eight vacant positions, and deleted four vacant positions, while restoring four vacant positions, reclassifying upward two positions, reclassifying downward two positions, and transferring 17 positions.

County officials expressed hope that the one layoff may yet be able to be averted, but gave no further information.

The budget includes a further $800,000 for repairs at the Downtown Men’s Jail, to repair nearly non-functional heating ventilation and cooling systems.

One of the few bright spots in the budget includes $934,428 carried over in unspent funds from last year. The county also revealed it will receive $1 million for Woodward Reservoir Improvements and Salida well development, as well as $650,000 for probation in restored state funding, and $1.3 million in employment and training services from the Workforce Investment Act.

But the county still faces $7 million in identified, currently underfunded needs, ranging from In-Home Supportive Services to the June 2012 Primary Election.

The budget situation doesn’t appear any rosier for the upcoming fiscal year, with a negotiated 5 percent salary reduction due to sunset June 30 and retirement costs expected to increase $8 million. If revenue remains flat, and nothing else changes, the county faces a projected $17.4 million deficit.

"Even with all the reductions in salary, staff, and programs, we're still looking at a $17 million deficit, which is very troubling," said Supervisor Jim DeMartini.

Over 80 percent of county expenditures go directly to salary and benefits, leaving the county with few options but to cut further staff.

But despite grim prospects for the coming budget, supervisors attempted to remain upbeat about the future of Stanislaus County.

"We're here today, and we'll be here tomorrow, and that's a good sign," Supervisor Dick Monteith said. 

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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