The Journal asked Stanislaus County Supervisor Vito Chiesa to look back at 2010 and ahead for 2011. The following is his perspectives on the county’s past and future.
Q. What successes did Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors have last year?
A. Despite a challenging year in terms of our fiscal resources, the Board of Supervisors has been successful in many endeavors. We have begun to implement pension reform with several of our bargaining groups, we have benefited from the formation of several partnerships, began the regionalization of fire services and completed construction of a regional animal services facility.
Q. If you could change one thing from 2010, what would it be?
A. I would change the instability of the State of California and the Federal Government. These entities affect the Stanislaus County general fund budget tremendously. Their instability creates a difficult environment for local governments to structure a balanced budget. We are always waiting for the shoe to drop, so to speak.
We also faced flat property and sales tax revenues this fiscal year.
Q. What major projects await the Board of Supervisors next year?
A. Again, we are facing challenging times. The goal in the upcoming year will be to define what a sustainable budget is, redefine the role of government and focus on delivering principally core services. We as a board have the responsibility to fashion solutions that may not have been socially or politically acceptable just a couple of years ago.
It will be our job to educate our residents about the challenges we face, the changes we make and balance their expectation of service with the resources we have available.
Q. If you could accomplish one realistic objective in 2011, what would it be?
A. As a county, I believe we will realize a regionalization of services between many agencies. It makes sense during downward times to pool our resources and make sure that we are not duplicating services.
Q. What significant hurdles do you see the Board of Supervisors facing in 2011?
A. The State of California. If the State continues to act irresponsibly with their budget and shift the responsibility (realignment) of unfunded mandates to the local governments, we will find ourselves once again trying to manage our own budget in the shadow of their instability.
Q. Do you anticipate further cuts to balance the budget? If so, what cuts?
A. Unfortunately, yes. We are facing a $28 million deficit for fiscal year 2011-2012. We will utilize $14 million of our reserve fund and will need to identify $14 million in budget reductions. The Board of Supervisors has asked each department head to make a presentation proposing cuts that make sense for their respective departments. Although the percentages vary, you will see cuts in every department of Stanislaus County.
Q. In one sentence, summarize your outlook on 2011.
A. 2011 will be the year that we will need to align the expectations of the citizens with our diminished ability to provide services.