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More bad news for county budget

POSTED May 3, 2011 10:55 p.m.

Stanislaus County is close to budget projections for 2010-2011, but expects a steep decline in income for the 2011-2012 fiscal year, supervisors learned Tuesday.

“We're anticipating some fairly significant erosion in discretionary funding, even in comparison with 2010-2011 and the projections we provided in October,” said Stanislaus County CEO Rick Robinson.

Originally, the county projected a $28 million shortfall in 2011-2012, with $14 million in program reductions and $14 million in reserves.

While sales and use taxes are showing gradual signs of improvements, total property taxes – the largest source of revenue – continue to decline, for the fourth straight year. The county expects property taxes to come in $4.2 million below projections.

“Good budgets get better, bad budgets get worse,” Supervisor Vito Chiesa said. “We look at this and see there's still erosion.”

A further $1.8 million in unexpected retirement costs and unknown liabilities due to the uncertain state budget, combined with a potential loss of revenue for the Sheriff, Probation, and the District Attorney’s office from the sunsetting ½ cent sales tax and loss of vehicle license fee revenue, paint an uncertain picture for next year’s budget.

The county expects to bridge most of the gap, $5.4 million, with fund balance savings. Up to 30 percent would be cut from all non public safety budgets, and up to 17 percent from public safety budgets in 2011-2012.

The revisions will force a reanalysis of fiscal years 2012-2013, 2013-2014, and 2014-2015. That reanalysis will be brought forward over the next several months.

“We haven't hit the bottom yet,” Chiesa said. “We kept thinking this was going to be the year that we hit the bottom, but it's not going to be.”

The Board of Supervisors expects to hear the 2011-2012 budget on June 7 at 9:05 a.m. in the county boardroom at 1010 Tenth St., Modesto, CA.

Supervisors also updated the 2010-2011 budget on Tuesday, mainly with housekeeping revisions. But update did eliminate 7 currently unfilled positions. The move pushed the county’s total employment lower than in the 1996-1997 fiscal year.

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

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