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County budget shows signs of growth, future concern
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The Stanislaus County proposed 2013-2014 budget sees an increase in both state and federal funding for county projects and revenue. The budget, which is set to be finalized in September, totals $1 billion in appropriations and $990 million in revenue — an increase over last year's budget of $984 million in appropriations and $930 million in revenue. 

According to county officials, year over year growth in discretionary spending is set to increase by $6 million or 4 percent. The increase can be credited to additional revenue from property and sales taxes, a direct result of a recovering housing industry and economy in Stanislaus County.

Prior to this year's increase, property tax revenue saw a cumulative decrease of 22 percent over the last five years.

This year will be the first time that trend will see a reversal.

“We’re finally seeing the economy pick up,” said Stanislaus County Supervisor Vito Chiesa. “It’s definitely a good sign and a step in the right direction."

Chiesa hopes that the increase in discretionary spending will allow more funds to open up for the hiring of law enforcement.

“The sheriff's department is definitely priority number one for us,” said Chiesa.

In order to balance this year's budget, the County will be using several retained earnings and fund balance.

The increase in the 2013-2014 budget is largely due to additional $40 million in appropriations for the Community Services Agencies and two separate road and bridge projects. These two factors alone account for $84 million in budget increase.

The road projects include the State Route 99/State Route 219 Kiernan Interchange and Claribel Road Widening Project, both which account for $44 million.

Many of the CSA increases are credited to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Once the act is fully implemented, the county will be responsible for providing more extensive social services for those who qualify under the act.

Along with additional positions for the CSA, other departments have also requested new full time positions as well. The sheriff's department requested eight full time positions and the Stanislaus County Behavioral and Recovery Services requested 10.

The requested hires come after four years of continuous employee layoffs, furloughs and salary reductions. 

Last month, county officials discussed whether or not to give back 1 percent of the 6 percent pay cut to the county's 3,837 employees.

“They won’t take another pay cut,” said Chiesa. “Employees came to the table quickly and it really helped us.”

According to Monica Nino, chief executive officer of Stanislaus County, some future areas of concern include the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, pension programs and increased social services.

“We have seen significant budget increases in social services over the past several budget cycles and we are closely watching any state and federal action in these areas,” she said.