Stanislaus County takes a budget hit, while cities, schools fare better

Stanislaus County got a dose of pain from Gov. Schwarzenegger's budget revision released Friday, while cities and school districts seemed to avoid more budget hits.

"There is no good news," said Rick Robinson, the county's chief executive officer. "It starts badly and I'm afraid it will get even worse before the state adopts its budget."

Two big hits to county resources would come in Schwarzenegger's proposal to end welfare programs, and to shift 15,000 prisoners from state prisons to county jails. Some of them would be bound for the county's facilities.

Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson said that move would create insurmountable challenges for local county jails already strapped for cash and facing declining staffs.

"Local governments cannot afford to house state prison inmates, especially now," Christianson said.

His department is laying off 52 employees and closing three of four barracks at the low-security Honor Farm. Overcrowded jail facilities will push more jail inmates into early release programs, reducing the total days inmates are behind bars by about one-fifth, the sheriff said.

County officials who oversee some of the social services Schwarzen- egger would axe were not available for comment Friday. The proposal would eliminate CalWORKS, a welfare program that helps 1.4 million people. Schwarzenegger also would cut most child care programs, and in-home care for the elderly.

Schools largely escaped the revise without further cuts, but educators are wary. They fear that if lawmakers reject Schwarzenegger's plan, alternate cuts would come out of school funding.

"There's a chance (Schwarzen- egger) would come back to edu- cation for further cuts," said Don Gatti, assistant superintendent of business services at the county Office of Education. "That makes us nervous."

Other officials were parsing the reports, looking for funding shifts that would exacerbate their budget cuts.

"I think we're just hopeless here," Stanislaus County Supervisor Jim DeMartini said. "We're bankrupt as a state and no one wants to say it."