Placer County supervisors OK $784 million budget

Shriveling resources pose spending challenge
By: Gus Thomson Journal Staff Writer
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A bruising year for the Placer County bottom line is being reflected in a new $784 million spending package that’s 9.4 percent smaller than last year’s. The Board of Supervisors OK’d the county budget for 2009-10 on Tuesday with little fanfare – ending several months of sometimes-rancorous discussions on how to deal with dropping revenues during a recession. Hit hard by a burst housing bubble and suddenly-frugal consumer buying trends, the county is expecting a drop of 3 percent this year in property-tax revenue and a 7 percent sales-tax decrease. Jeff Bell, a budget analyst in the CEO’s office, said that the impact of revenue decreases over the past two years could not be overstated. “It’s been a significant and challenging year,” Bell said. While the budget is down from $865 million last year, Bell warned that the state’s continuing fiscal woes could result in more downward adjustments at mid-year. Final adoption of the budget brings to an end a process that started last December and resulted in several steps to shore up revenue losses, including monthly furloughs for workers and a hiring freeze on most positions. The county moves forward with 2,452 employees – 162 fewer funded positions than it had at the start of the previous budget year. Supervisor Kirk Uhler, whose wife was recently hired to an executive post with the county Child Support Services division, asked board members to separate that division’s part of the budget out of the larger vote. He then stayed in his seat and said after the vote that he abstained. On the overall budget – excluding Child Support Services – Uhler joined other supervisors in approving the spending blueprint. Supervisor Robert Weygandt was absent from the meeting. In other board business: n Supervisors approved environmental clearances for repainting and a seismic retrofit on the Foresthill Bridge estimated to cost $70 million. n The board postponed consideration of a resolution to apply for a $2.5 million federal grant for infrastructure improvements related to the proposed Hilltop Center hotel and restaurant development along Bowman Road. A staff report said at least 75 full-time jobs would be created and total project construction is an estimated $29 million. The block grant proposal will now be heard Oct. 6. n Supervisors cleared the way for a move by the Veteran’s Service Office from North Auburn to Rocklin. The board adopted a resolution instructing staff to sign a 16-year lease with Oates Investments for office space in Rocklin. The move would resolve problems with overcrowding at the existing First Street facility, a staff report said.