County Faces Soaring Budget Deficit...Again

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(Sacramento, CA)
Monday, March 16, 2009

On Friday, officials went public with a projected gap for the fiscal year that starts July 1st.  It’s roughly eight percent of the county’s general fund.
Health and human services will likely take the largest hit, as it has before.  That means the county will shut down more clinics.  And public safety services are at risk too – they’re short around $25 million from underperforming statewide sales tax revenues.  Chief operations officer Nav Gill says the cuts will include layoffs and service reductions.
Gill: “Our county is going to look much different in our service provision than what we do now.  What will come out will be some restructuring.  And it’s program cuts.” 
Officials will try to bridge some of the gap by turning to the county’s employee unions.  Just as the city of Sacramento got its police officers to give up their cost-of-living increases, so too will Sacramento County ask its unions to help out.  Supervisor Roger Dickinson:
Dickinson: “I don’t see it so much as concessions, as I see it as participation in fashioning the best solution we can to preserve programs and services to county residents.” 
Still, the sheriff’s union has already publicly questioned the competence of top county officials.  And employee costs are only projected to rise around $60 million – which means even if unions agree to everything the county asks, the deficit will remain more than $100 million.
Meanwhile, county officials won’t unveil the precise cuts to the public and the Board of Supervisors until early June – just in time for budget hearings.