The Placer County Board of Supervisors has scheduled a public hearing for the 2008-09 Final Budget to take place during the board’s regular meeting on Tuesday, August 26, at 10:30 a.m. at the County Administrative Center, 175 Fulweiler Ave., in Auburn.
The 2008-09 Final Budget totals $865 million, up nine percent from the 2007-08 Final Budget. Of the programs funded in the Final Budget, 37.5 percent ($325 million) is dedicated to capital and road infrastructure. Funding for capital improvements had been previously set aside, and cannot be used for general purposes. The other 62.5 percent of the Final Budget ($540 million) is dedicated to county operations, and includes a modest 1.9 percent year-over-year increase.
The budget does not include the use of General Fund reserves.
Because the State has not completed its budget, Placer County will need to consider any state-budget impacts at a future date when those impacts become clear.
Like counties throughout California, Placer County is facing multi-year budget challenges because of economic conditions in the state and nation. Public safety sales taxes have declined, and property tax revenues have not recovered from the housing slump. Costs for such things as gas, energy and health care continue to climb.
“The aggressive cost-cutting steps taken by the Board of Supervisors beginning last summer have helped protect the high level of services we provide to our residents and allowed us to continue our work to meet future needs,” said Thomas M. Miller, County Executive Officer. “Balancing our 2008-09 budget was challenging, but would have been much more difficult had we not taken steps to reduce spending early.”
To save money, Placer County has left more than 200 staff positions unfilled, and will be refilling only the most-essential positions. The county has also avoided major purchases, budgeted prudently and has found increasingly efficient ways to provide services to the public.
There is also a need to move forward on key projects, such as a new jail at the county’s Bill Santucci Justice Center in Roseville. The jail is expected to cost $100 million to build and $20 million a year to operate. The budget also includes planning for libraries in Rocklin, Colfax and Foresthill, renovating the downtown Roseville Court facility, planning for a new justice center in North Lake Tahoe, and setting aside funds to cover future benefit costs.
Historically, Placer County has managed its fiscal issues prudently even during more-positive years, according to CEO Miller. “For many years, the county has set aside funding for long-term needs, such as capital building replacements, and more recently for other post employment benefits,” he said. “We have also expanded our park system and other public services, but have done so in manner that minimizes impacts on the county and the general fund.”
Protecting vital health and human services to the county’s most vulnerable residents is considered a priority by the Board for Supervisors.
For the past seven years, the state and federal governments have provided inadequate funding for health and human services (HHS) Placer County is mandated to provide. This seven-year shortfall totals more than $35 million now, a figure which will likely grow when the state adopts its 2008-09 budget, particularly given the additional HHS program reductions included in the Governor’s Budget. On May 6, the Board of Supervisors held a workshop to consider the level of funding needed to protect the most critical Health and Human Services to the community.
To make sure health and human services mandated by the state have remained in place, in the past, the County has shored up state funding with county general funds, a much more difficult thing to do this year given the tight county budget.
“This year the situation has been more critical than before,” CEO Miller said. “Absent more support from the county General Fund, there could have been consequences such as increased caseloads for child and adult protective services, fewer staff for the children’s emergency shelter, and generally less support for our most vulnerable residents.”
During its May 6 workshop, the Board of Supervisors made protection of essential Health and Human Services a budget priority. In response, other county departments further reduced their budgets by nearly $3 million, and managed to save an additional $3 million beyond what was expected from last year’s budget. These funds have been reallocated to fill a variety of board priorities, particularly to support critical HHS programs.
The 2008-09 Final Budget and the changes proposed during last week’s budget workshops look beyond the current year, recognizing that the current fiscal climate could likely last for another two to three years. While the county has taken considerable care in crafting its Final Budget, as of this time, the state is without an adopted budget, and given the magnitude of the potential reductions that could come with the state budget, including raids on local resources and other programmatic reductions, it is not unrealistic to suggest that the county could see state cuts in the range of $8‑10 million. Given these circumstances and once a final state budget is approved, the county’s balanced Final Budget may need to be changed to accommodate state budget impacts.