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County to cut services, employees in coming year

POSTED September 14, 2010 9:06 p.m.

The Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors adopted a $918.8 million final budget for 2010-2011 on Tuesday morning, containing even more cutbacks than included in the initially proposed budget and forecasting more dire cuts in the years to come.

“The fiscal challenges continue,” said county Assistant CEO Patty Hill-Thomas. “They have been with us for a while, and we expect they will be with us for quite a while into the future.”

The adopted budget eliminates a net of 19 positions from the county payroll, bringing the yearly tally to 145. Two of Tuesday’s eliminated positions – a facilities maintenance manager and a public works clerk – were filled.

In all, the county has 857 fewer employees in the 2010-2011 budget than at the county’s employment high point of 4,603 employees in 2007-2008. The budget does add a new manager in the library division and a social worker with the Area Agency on Aging.

Tuesday’s adopted budget is $39 million lower than last year’s budget, largely due to declining property tax and sales tax. The budget projects $143.9 million in revenue this year, down 21 percent from a 2007-2008 high of $181 million.

All county programs received a 9 percent cut in their general fund allocation as a result of declining funding. Additionally, all county employees previously agreed to an effective 5 percent salary reduction, enacted through furloughs.

The county budget picture doesn’t look to improve any time soon. This year’s approved budget included a $15.6 million structural deficit, offset by the use of one-time savings, and county projections see that deficit growing to $25.8 million next year and $40.8 million by the 2012-2013 fiscal year.

Those projections assume no additional program growth.

“Today is, again, another sobering look for us sitting up here, and you sitting in the audience,” said Supervisor Vito Chiesa. “… We’re dealing with something that seems to be growing rather than shrinking.”

Stanislaus County’s adopted final budget faces further uncertainties as the State of California has yet to adopt its own budget. The California Legislature is now 77 days late in adopting a budget.

Stanislaus County receives $282.7 million of its $918.8 million budget directly from the State of California. If the state opts not to fund mandated programs, the county will be required to find funding, likely from the shrinking general fund budget. Already, two-thirds of the county’s general fund budget goes to mandated, unfunded programs.

This year’s cuts will have immediate impacts on county services, resulting in reduced office hours at the Assessor’s Office, the Library and the Treasurer–Tax Collector’s Office. The adopted budget will also see the closure of 270 beds at the Honor Farm, a reduced number of prosecutors available to staff courtrooms, and a reduction in services at the Assessor’s Office.

Behavioral Health and Recovery Services-Alcohol and Drug Programs and Public Guardian services will also be reduced, as will In-Home Supportive Services case management and Child Welfare supportive services. Lastly, the budget will result in reduced maintenance service levels at parks and county facilities.

County CEO Rick Robinson said he’d been asked earlier whether the adopted budget would have an impact on county citizens.

“I think the answer is, it depends,” Robinson said. “It depends on if you actually access county government services.”

The County Board of Supervisors will receive their first update on this year’s budget during their regularly scheduled Nov. 3 meeting. A mid-year report is expected in late February 2011.

The 2010-2011 Stanislaus County budget is available online at www.stancounty.com/budget.

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

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