County's Last-Minute Budget Cuts Shock, Frustrate Many

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(Sacramento, CA)
Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Clearly, Sacramento County officials didn’t expect things to be this bad at all.  This was chief operations officer Nav Gill back in February:
Gill: “We’re projecting a shortfall of $40 to $60 million.” 
And here’s Gill yesterday:
Gill: “What’s being proposed to the Board of Supervisors is departmental cuts for approximately $69 million and also using reserves for $55 million to balance the budget.” 
Which totals more than $120 million – over twice Gill’s numbers from February.  So when the county released its proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year 10 days ago, the cuts were bigger and broader than expected.  And if approved, they’ll affect seniors, job-seekers, the uninsured, victims of domestic violence and more.
Findeisen: “This was a real surprise to the non-profit community, the cuts that are being recommended.” 
Nancy Findeisen is with the Community Services Planning Council.  She found out May 30th that county funds for a community information line that just started in April would likely disappear.  Up until then, officials from three local non-profits say they thought they would dodge any major slashes to their programs.  And as Findeisen puts it: 
Findeisen: “It’s just very frustrating that it would come out so late with these significant budget cuts for us, giving us very little time to plan and to find some other solutions.”
The non-profit officials say it’s the first time in all their years working with the county that they found out this late.
Gill says the county made it clear early on that there’d be a problem, but …
Gill: “We felt it would be beneficial for us to know all that information prior to going public or speculating on what programs we might not be able to provide or curtail.” 
So the non-profits have spent the last 10 days rushing to change their plans for next year – and scrambling to put their best feet forward at this week’s budget hearings.  Supervisors are hearing from county staff today; they’ve set aside two hours for public testimony Thursday afternoon.