February 27, 2008

Save for shortfall, Stanislaus Couny told

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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