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Theres just no money
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Let’s be frank: More than 200 local residents will lose their jobs due to city and county budget cuts over the next few months.

Hundreds of local families will be absolutely devastated by the loss of an income. And, if we’re being frank, their prospects of finding another job right now are awfully grim.

These families — some of which were likely just keeping their heads above water — will have to cut back drastically on their day-to-day spending, even on simple things like groceries. Many of them may well lose their homes.

And all this for what? These employees deserved this for dedicating their lives to public service? For, by and large, doing a darn good job with their work?

As thanks for years of service in the rank-and-file of running a government, hundreds will be left with little more than a pink slip. Some retirement gift, huh?

This whole state of affairs is awful. It’s atrocious. It’s unconscionable.

But what else is the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors to do? What else can the Turlock City Council do?

The answer, if we’re being frank, is not much.

The county and city have no money. None.

True, they have millions of dollars to their names. But their General Fund budgets — the only slice of money governments have much control over — are at the lowest levels seen in a decade or more.

The decline can be attributed to numerous causes, chief among them the local foreclosure crisis. It all comes down to the simple tenet that if no one’s building or buying, the government can’t get a cut of it.

Of course, this situation will become even worse without the tax dollars from laid-off governmental workers.

By and large, these positions being eliminated are high paying jobs. These are the kind of jobs we need if we’re going to bounce back from this recession, or depression, or whatever sort of pression we’re calling it these days.

And if these 200 or so employees all lose their homes, that will only lengthen the road to recovery.

But with no prospects of an immediate — or even near-term — recovery, what choice do governments have? Cutting spending to match revenues is the only way to avoid bankruptcy, given the rapidly dwindling reserve funds.

That work has been ongoing for the past three years, since the start of the economic downturn.  Last year, Turlock cut 23 city employees and endured a 10 percent reduction of the non-personnel operating budget. The county cut 12 percent from most departments a year ago — 5 percent for public safety departments — and looks to drop another 9 percent across the board this year. More than 70 county positions have been cut this year alone.

Amazingly, those cuts have been — by and large — transparent to the average citizen. Employees, bless their hearts, have been doing more with less, taking on additional responsibilities so we residents aren’t as inconvenienced as we should be, given the magnitude of the cuts. And these employees have even agreed to salary cuts, year after year, just to save a few fellow workers and to keep the city and county running.

But the relatively easy work was done in the past few years. There are no low hanging fruit left.

This newest round of cuts will hurt everyone, employees and citizens alike. These cuts will directly impact services. There’s no way they won’t; they’re just too massive.

Parks will be dirtier. Pools will be open less. Permits will take longer to process. Government will become less accessible.

I talk to elected officials every day. Every one I talk to, every last person, looks absolutely defeated these days.

They tell me this is the hardest part of their job. That no one wants to fire someone, especially someones who — in most cases — are doing a darn good job with their work.

But there’s no money. There’s just no money.

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail, call 634-9141 ext. 2005, or snag a nearby chair at any regional budget meeting.