Sacramento County's New Budget Has Bad News for Everyone

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(Sacramento, CA)
Wednesday, June 17, 2009

How do you cut 30 percent of a county’s discretionary spending?  By making decisions like these:
MacGlashan: “So you want to lay off deputies to …”
Dickinson: “… to save children.  It’s a bad equation any way you look at it.”
MacGlashan: “I agree. But I’m not prepared to support that.”
That exchange between Supervisors Roberta MacGlashan and Roger Dickinson was actually not typical of the long final day of budget hearings.  More typical were moments like this one, with Supervisor Susan Peters crunching the numbers with county budget officer Linda Foster-Hall.  They were trying to figure out how much money was needed to restore programs on supervisors’ wish lists.
Peters: “If there’s $811,000 in requests …”
Foster-Hall: “We’re negative $82,589.”
Peters: “That’s right.  So you have to add 82 to 811 …” 
Peters looked like she was doing the math by hand.  Foster-Hall had a calculator.  But somehow, officials came up with around $17 million from places like the county’s workers comp fund.  And supervisors spread that money out according to their priorities:
  • $12 million to the sheriff’s department, which combined with labor savings from rank-and-file deputies, saved 120 jobs.
  • $4 million to the probation department to keep one of the county’s two juvenile correction facilities open.
  • And much smaller amounts for a variety of health and social services, from programs to help high-risk moms and kids to shelter beds for the homeless.
After the meeting, Peters sounded tired but relieved – and said it was good to finally have some certainty.
Peters: “Our goal was to restore public safety to the greatest extent possible and to try and bridge the gap on several social service programs that will allow them to stay in business a little bit longer.” 
But even though this round of budgeting is done, yep – you guessed it – more cuts are in the future.  County officials are keeping a nervous eye on the state budget and on those ever-declining sales and property tax revenues.  Look for more budget hearings by September.