Stanislaus County released a proposed budget Friday that allocates substantial funds for resurfacing roads and building a major bridge project.
Otherwise, the spending plan for the budget year that begins July 1 contains some loose ends. In particular, there are no definite answers on how a state plan for In-Home Supportive Services will impact county mental health and health services in the coming year.
The county’s total budget for 2017-18 is almost $1.2 billion and is 4 percent higher than last year’s budget. The county is authorizing 30 additional employee positions, boosting the county ranks to 4,429 positions.
Jody Hayes, assistance executive officer for the county, said 21 of the new positions were previously approved for staffing the ambitious jail expansion. Seven positions are recommended for environmental resources, two for information technology and one for the district attorney.
Some hiring requests will be deferred until the final budget is approved in September.
The plan includes $30.2 million in spending for road construction, including federal money to replace the Santa Fe Avenue bridge over the Tuolumne River near Hughson. The county has asked for bids from contractors and expects to start work on the $12 million bridge project in August, Public Works Director Matt Machado said.
The county’s share from the Measure L transportation tax – about $5 million – will pay for resurfacing 140 miles of roads.
Work recently began on 30 miles of road repairs in Salida. Machado said road maintenance also is planned in the Empire, Denair and Hickman areas.
In addition, the budget includes more than 80 miles of chip-seal work for roads in various parts of Stanislaus County. Warnerville and Bentley roads, in the eastern part of the county, are long overdue for road maintenance, Machado noted.
The Sheriff’s Department needs to increase positions at the Public Safety Center on Hackett Road, where 120 new jail beds were opened in March. The plan calls activating space for 177 additional inmates in the coming year.
The 297 additional inmates will require a $3.8 million budget increase for jail medical services. Among the costs are staffing and a full-time registered nurse to work in booking.
A recent expansion of the Public Safety Center increased the capacity by 552 beds and featured a medical and mental health unit. The Sheriff’s Department has intended to open the extra space for inmates in phases, as funding is available.
Major budget issue
The county is preparing for a possible $6.5 million budget impact due to the state plan to shift costs for In-Home Supportive Services to counties. The ramifications won’t be fully known until a state budget is approved.
In a revised state budget proposal last month, Gov. Jerry Brown somewhat reduced the burden for counties by trimming the cost shift from $623 million to $592 million and phasing it over four years. The program provides for in-home care for 470,000 severely disabled and elderly people in California.
Some have expressed concern that Brown’s plan would use growth funds from a 1991 realignment of vehicle license fee revenue that has supported local mental health services.
“We know it is better than what was proposed in January,” Hayes said. “It appears that with the way the deal is structured with the state, there are secondary impacts to mental health and health services programs.”
Hayes said it was premature to say whether staff cuts would result from the IHSS budget issue. “I know those county departments are analyzing it and working on a plan to take back to the board in September,” he said.
The county budget includes $14.7 million for contingencies for health insurance rates and negotiations with labor groups. Departments will need to cover salary increases when labor contracts are renewed and have planned for a 7.5 percent increase in health insurance costs.
For several years, the county was able to keep health insurance increases to 5 percent a year, after previous years of double-digit increases.
Another cost item is a 28 percent increase in operating expenses in the Registrar of Voters office. The elections division is faced with running two regular elections in 2017-18, compared with one in the past year.
The county budget projects $203.7 million in “discretionary” revenue or a 5 percent rise in revenue that’s used for local services at the discretion of county leaders. Over the next fiscal year, property-tax values are expected to increase by 3 percent.
Ken Carlson: 209-578-2321. @KenCarlson16