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County budget still building towards pre-recession status
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The economic recession that economically fragmented families, businesses, and local governments across the nation may have happened nearly a decade ago, but Stanislaus County is still in the process of building towards a healthier economic future as evidenced by the release of their finalized 2014-2015 Recommended Budget.

The 2014-2015 budget proposal allocates a 4.8 percent increase in authorized spending over the 2013-2014 budget spending primarily due to an increase in health and social services programs. According to Supervisor Vito Chiesa the Board will be returning to its pre- recession spending habits in that the County will begin to cover increases in retirement and healthcare costs once again. With an emphasis on remaining vigilant when spending dollars, Chiesa noted that there “was a general agreement on how to spend the money.”

“We just have to decide what is sustainable,” said Chiesa.

The County is also making an effort to rebuild its employee base. After being down around 1,000 positions from pre-recession numbers, the County has steadily built back around 600 of those positions and aims to continue the trend.

“When we were down those first few hundred jobs I don’t think people noticed as much, but once we were down a thousand, people started to notice even just by how long it takes to speak to someone at our counter,” said Chiesa. “I’d say one of our overall goals is to expand services.”

 The 2014-2015 Final Budget staffing recommendations includes an additional 28 positions to the allocation count which means the county will be adding 24 new positions, restoring 11 unfunded positions, unfunding two vacant positions, deleting five vacant positions, deleting five unfunded positions, transferring 17 positions between budget units, reclassifying 14 positions, conducting 11 classification studies, and double-filling one Manager IV position up to three months. Three positions will also be transferred from the Health Services Agency to the Community Services Agency. This will elevate the position count from its current status of 3,950 to just shy of 4,000. While with the recommended changes the number of full-time allocated positions will still be 13.6 percent below the high of 4,603 positions in 2007-2008, Chief Executive Officer Stan Risen expressed continued commitment to a fiscally healthy county.

 “In spite of the challenges we have faced as a county, I take heart in knowing we have a championship caliber team in Stanislaus County that are finding ways to bounce back and overcome the adversity that has come our way,” said  Risen. “We remain committed to restoring and maintaining financial strength through sound fiscal policy.”

A Public Hearing to adopt the Fiscal Year 2014-2015 Recommended Final Budget has been scheduled for 6:35 p.m. on Tuesday, September 16, 2014, to be continued if necessary on September 17 and 18 at 9 a.m.  The meeting will take place at 1010 Tenth Street in Modesto in the basement Board Chambers.