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County budget coffers fuller than expected

Six more employees out of a job

POSTED September 15, 2009 11:17 p.m.
More money will be in Stanislaus County’s 2009-2010 final budget than had been initially expected, but fewer workers will be employed by the county this year.
The Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a $958 million budget on Tuesday evening that comes in approximately $3 million above the previously adopted proposed budget. However, effective Oct. 24, six additional county employees will lose their jobs with the county.
The reduction in forces will bring the total number of laid-off county employees to 30 in this fiscal year. A total of 469 full-time authorized positions were eliminated from last year’s budget, the majority of which were unfilled at the time of deletion, bringing the total number of county employees down to 3,990.
“My hat really goes off tonight to all the employees of the county,” said Stanislaus County District 1 Supervisor Bill O’Brien. “We have employees doing more now than they ever have, and everybody is doing their part.”
Tuesday’s reductions include an Account Clerk III and two Social Worker II positions from the Area Agency on Aging. The reduction in forces came due to a $281,837 cut in state funding for the positions, which was eliminated in a governor line item veto of the Linkages, Respite, and Brown Bag programs.
The majority of revisions made in the final budget came as a result of the State Budget, the final implications of which are still not known today. Further adjustments to the county budget are expected throughout the fiscal year, according to county staff.
“There are more unknowns for the current fiscal year than we would like to see at this point,” said Assistant CEO Patty Hill Thomas.
Given the information currently available regarding the final state budget, despite the overall increase in the budget, the county’s discretionary revenue will take a $1.86 million hit due to state elimination of the Williamson Act subvention and reductions in Tobacco Endowment funds. Prop 1A transportation funding and Senate Bill 90 reimbursement funds could also dry up, to the tune of $17.5 million in county loss exposure.
County staff expressed concern that sales tax, property tax, and public safety tax revenues could all also fall below projections this year — forcing cuts across the board or dips into reserve funding — depending on the economy and the final state budget.
“We’re all in this together,” said Stanislaus County District 2 Supervisor Vito Chiesa. “We have to present a balanced budget. That’s the way it is, and it’s a sad fact, and next year will definitely be worse. … We all need to prepare together.”
Stanislaus County CEO Rick Robinson stated that the county expects a minimum $20 million shortfall in the 2010-2011 fiscal year. An additional 5 to 10 percent of the county’s workforce may need to be eliminated to keep the county on track to meet its budgetary goals. The county expects to define “core levels of sustainable service” by that time.
“The delivery of services in the community is not going to be the same in 2010-11 and future years as it was in 08-09 and prior years,” Stanislaus County CEO Rick Robinson said. “It simply isn’t possible.”
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.
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