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County budget avoids major cuts, layoffs -- for now

With the state's budget still far from settled, Merced County officials are preparing to enter a new fiscal year with no finalized budget of their own -- and with a lot of uncertainty about how the crisis in Sacramento will play out locally.

A few things are clear though: The big boosts made last year to public safety, parks and libraries won't be there this year; the county's social services departments will be hit hardest by cuts on the state-level; and the county won't finalize its budget until late August at the earliest.

The Board of Supervisors adopted a $470 million working budget on Tuesday, meant to guide the county's spending between July 1 -- the start of the new fiscal year -- and whenever the board approves a final budget.

It avoids major cuts and includes no layoffs, and it doesn't draw on the county's emergency reserves.

But it also doesn't take into account the state's looming $17 billion deficit, instead basing its revenue projections on current state funding laws.

California's budget shortfall will undoubtedly mean cuts in state funding for the county, so the tentative budget adopted Tuesday will surely change before it's finalized. But how deep the cuts will go remains to be seen.

Read the full story in Wednesday's Merced Sun-Star.