Budget Woes Reach Sacramento County

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(Sacramento, CA)
Thursday, February 7, 2008

By: Ben Adler and Kelley Weiss


First, it was the city of Sacramento that said it’d be $55 million over budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1st.  Then, the state said it’s looking at a $14 billion deficit.  This week, it was Sacramento County’s turn.
Gill: “We’re projecting a shortfall of $40 to 60 million.” 
That’s the county’s chief operations officer, Nav Gill.  He blames lower-than-expected sales, property and hotel tax revenues.  But he says county departments are actually keeping their expenses on track.
Even before July 1st, the county’s got some work to do.  Its current fiscal year shortfall is $16 million.  Gill says he does not expect layoffs; but the county will likely leave some vacant jobs unfilled – and departments may have to raise some fees. 
The One Unexpected Expense
One factor driving Sacramento County’s budget deficit is more low-income residents seeking health care. UC Davis Medical Center provides some of the county’s services to the poor. And, the county owes the medical center an extra $5 million because of the higher demand.
Dr. Keith Andrews is with the county’s health department. He says the bad economy caused five percent more people to turn to the county for services.  Andrews says he’s trying to offset costs and prevent layoffs.
Andrews:“We’ve taken a number of steps already. Several of them are similar to what larger HMO’s like Kaiser are doing.”
Andrews says one example is having a doctor see several patients with the same illness at the same time. They’re also offering more services in one place and using doctors in training to help treat patients.