Save for shortfall, Stanislaus Couny told

Official: General fund will be $14M in red

February 27, 2008 

  • OTHER ACTION


    The Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors also:
    • Unanimously approved a plan to decentralize the sheriff's command center, a move county officials said will save money and increase efficiency. Instead of running a central command center at the public safety center on Hackett Road, the Sheriff's Department will operate regional centers in Riverbank, Waterford and Patterson, as well as on Hackett Road. The regional approach will save deputies the time involved in driving back and forth to Hackett Road, leaving them more time for patrolling and gaining a quicker response time to calls, according to Assistant Sheriff Bill Heyne. Expanding the command center at Hackett Road would have cost $16.2 million, Chief Operations Officer Patty Hill Thomas said, while the regional approach will cost $2.8 million. The savings will free up funds for other public safety center improvements, including a larger jail and a new coroner's facility, she said. The Riverbank center already is running in the city's police facility. The other two centers will take some time to be fully operational, Heyne said, but can be partially implemented right away.

    • Declared 140 acres at the Fink Road Landfill surplus, allowing the county to reimburse the landfill enterprise account for the $1.3 million value of the land. The county's acquisition of 2,100 acres adjacent to the landfill in 1999 was controversial and raised concerns about the county trucking garbage in from other areas to make money on the land. The county paid $14 million for the property, which was appraised at $10.75 million. After a critical grand jury report five years ago recommended that the county sell surplus land at the landfill site, the board decided to study landfill needs for the next 100 years. In a report Tuesday, county staff said most of the land will be needed for landfill and environmental mitigation over the next 100 years. The county may need to preserve three acres in open space for every acre developed as landfill, according to the report. The board authorized staff to seek long-term farm leases on the property adjacent to the landfill, including on the 140-acre surplus property, which is along Interstate 5 north of the current landfill operations. -- Tim Moran

Like many other local governments, Stanislaus County is facing some difficult budgeting decisions because of a weak economy and the state budget crisis, county supervisors were told Tuesday.

The county needs to find $5.9 million in savings to maintain a healthy general fund balance this fiscal year, according to Patty Hill Thomas, the county's chief operations officer. A shortfall of $14.3 million is expected next year. The general fund budget for this fiscal year is $279 million.

Hill Thomas offered a number of options to boost the general fund balance, including a 3 percent reduction for all county programs paid for through the general fund. The supervisors directed Rick Robinson, county chief executive officer, to come up with a strategy for this fiscal year and next year.

Shortfalls in funding that comes through the state are likely to be larger, Hill Thomas said. Funding for health and welfare and other state-mandated programs are likely to drop about $17.5 million, she said.

About 47 percent of the county's $945.7 million budget is dedicated to health and welfare programs funded by the federal and state governments.

"We do have some very difficult budget times ahead," Robinson said. He blamed the slowdown in the economy, fueled by soaring home foreclosures and the state's projected $16 billion deficit.

Bee staff writer Tim Moran can be reached at tmoran@modbee.com or 578-2349.

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