Merced County officials focusing on positive in budget

mnorth@mercedsunstar.comAugust 20, 2012 

— Merced County leaders are set to consider a final budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year, a financial plan that calls for job reorganization, a handful of layoffs and tighter spending.

However, officials are labeling the proposed document a step in the right direction for the county, narrowing the ongoing deficit and making cuts they believe don't have a significant impact on services to residents.

On Monday, County Executive Officer Jim Brown said the budget, which will be considered by the Board of Supervisors during today's meeting, does include $1.6 million in one-time revenues carried over from the previous year and doesn't come from reserves.

This year's budget takes steps toward reducing the deficit -- a financial burden that's been carried over from past years.

Employee bargaining units took cuts, which will save the county $2.5 million this fiscal year, Brown said.

Six layoffs will be considered, including one from administrative services, one from economic development, one from the library system, one from the health department and two cooks from corrections. There won't be any public safety layoffs.

In addition to the six layoffs, several vacant positions will be deleted.

While some aspects of the budget have been altered since the proposed plan was passed in June, it hasn't seen any "drastic changes," Brown said.

That document's proposals would slash the county's estimated $10 million deficit to a projected $3.8 million. The county's total budget is set at $426.9 million, down $9.5 million from last year.

The state's financial situation is expected to influence the county's budget as it plays out, Brown noted.

"At this point, it will affect us more going forward," he said. "We are still waiting on the final allocations from the state in our social service programs, and a lot will depend on the November ballot."

Board Chairman and District 2 Supervisor Hub Walsh was analyzing the financial plan Monday and described it as a "reasonable" proposal.

"It looks like we're tightening our belts again," he said, adding that today's meeting will include policy discussions.

District 3 Supervisor Linn Davis said staff has done a good job this year keeping the public informed about the budget situation.

Judging by what they've seen, Davis and Walsh said they think the plan is the right move for the county. They also said they haven't heard much concern about the proposal from their constituents.

Today's final budget hearings start at 1:30 p.m. in the boardroom on the third floor of the County Administration Building at 2222 M St.

Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or mnorth@mercedsunstar.com.

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