Stanislaus County will likely have to cut programs and services in the coming year after listening to a dismal financial forecast from its chief operating officer on Tuesday.
The Board of Supervisors was told where the current year budget stands and what they can expect for the next year, which starts July 1.
Patty Hill Thomas, the chief operating officer, noted that the county will end the budget year in the black, but the coming year will be a challenge, she said.
A ballooning and uncertain deficit in the state budget, reductions in federal funding and a stumbling local economy will affect county revenue and ser- vices, she said.
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The Board of Supervisors scheduled a public hearing at 9:15 a.m. on June 10 to consider the proposed budget. It will be available to the public on May 30. Final budget hearings will be held starting Sept. 9.
The governor is projecting a $16 billion to $20 billion state deficit, and the state budget isn't likely to be approved before the county's preliminary budget is due in June, Hill Thomas said. Many county departments and services depend on state funding, which means county staff will have to guess at funding levels and amend the county budget in September.
The governor's office is expected to issue a revision to budget projections on May 14, which should give county officials a better idea of the depth of the state problems.
Local property tax collections are expected to drop 6 percent as property values continue to fall in the county, said Monica Nino, county assistant executive officer. That will directly affect several programs in the county's general fund, she said.
Sales tax revenues also have been affected by the economic slowdown.
Overall, if the current level of services is maintained, the general fund is facing a $12 million shortfall next year, Hill Thomas said.
Goal was a 2 percent reduction
County departments have been working on a 16-month plan to reduce spending in order to build a $5.9 million fund balance, Hill Thomas said. Department heads set a goal of reducing spending by 2 percent by June 30, she said, which would save $3.68 million.
It looks as if the county will fall short of the 2 percent reduction goal, Hill Thomas said, but should end the fiscal year in the black.
"We didn't make the total, but we made it in most areas," she said.
For instance, the health services departments project a reduction of $606,505 by June 30, about $150,000 more than the 2 percent goal. But law enforcement and justice departments will reach about half the goal of $2.35 million in savings.
County staff was reluctant to cut further, especially in areas such as public safety, Hill Thomas said. The county will fall about $1 million short of the 2 percent goal.
More cuts needed next year
Cuts have been made in the Health Services Agency, the Behavioral Health and Recovery Services, the Planning Department and most recently, the library, Hill Thomas noted.
The next fiscal year will bring greater cuts, according to Hill Thomas. Department heads have been told to look at an across the board 3 percent reduction, she said.
Budget planners are looking at reducing the money set aside for a jail expansion and placing a moratorium on contributions to the county's economic development bank. The bank makes loans to area cities for infrastructure improvements tied to economic development.
County Board Chairman Tom Mayfield said the county will do whatever it has to do to fix the situation.
"We have to have a balanced budget. Whatever it takes, we will do. I wish I could give an optimistic report, but I can't," Mayfield said.
Bee staff writer Tim Moran can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2349.