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County in financial crisis

By: Staff Report
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Declining national and state economies with a related drop in local revenues have forced the Placer County Board of Supervisors to weigh additional cost-cutting measures for this fiscal year as well as set the groundwork for the 2009-10 fiscal year, according to county public information officer Anita Yoder. The county’s 2008-09 fiscal year budget, balanced when approved on Sept. 9, now faces approximately an $8-million shortfall. This shortfall occurred, Yoder said in a press release, because of a sharp decline in actual and projected revenues, particularly property and sales taxes. Additionally, the governor’s proposed budget includes further reducing local criminal justice funding of another $1 million. Next year promises to be even more challenging, according to the press release, with further declines in sales and property taxes. This does not include probable midyear state impacts yet to be adopted. Steps taken by supervisors beginning in August 2007, such as hiring restrictions, expenditure reductions and conservative estimates on revenue, helped balance last year’s budget, the press release stated. These measures remain in place but won’t be enough to overcome the new challenges of declining revenues. Additional steps must be taken to balance the budget. A proposed measure is to close most county offices during Christmas week, Dec. 22 to 26, a mandatory unpaid leave for most employees. Critical services such as law enforcement would remain available. This step would save an estimated $1.5 million to $2 million. A number of county employees have voiced concern in regard to such a four-day closure. The county continues to look for a plan involving unpaid leave to minimize the impact on employees and the public. During the Board of Supervisors’ meeting on Dec. 9, the board will hear information about budget issues and consider possible ways to cut costs. “Despite our earlier cost-cutting, business as usual is not sustainable,” said Thomas M. Miller, county executive officer. “Our priority will be to rebalance this year’s budget while minimizing the reductions in service to our communities. The Board of Supervisors must position the county to face next year’s budget challenges, which are expected to be worse. Therefore we will also look for ways to reorganize for better delivery of services and programs.” Placer County is mandated to provide a wide variety of services to more than 330,000 residents. Approximately 85 percent of county revenues are spent on countywide services, such as safety-net health and human services, jails, elections and fiscal management. Additionally, the county provides municipal services, such as law enforcement services, roads and bridges, parks and libraries to residents in the unincorporated areas.