Supervisors To Hold Budget Workshop

The Placer County Board of Supervisors will hold a budget workshop Tuesday, March 8 to take a closer look at three departments that have a lot at stake in the state’s budget battles.

Tuesday’s workshop will be the second in a series being held to develop a proposed county budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year.

The board plans to hold workshops through April and to review a proposed budget in June so it can have a budget plan in place when the new fiscal year begins July 1. Board members will continue to make budget adjustments during a second series of workshops in August and adopt a final budget in September.

At the first workshop on Feb. 22, the county budget team reported that 2011-12 appears challenging, but manageable based on an estimated deficit of $2.8 million once achievable adjustments are made. Such adjustments do not include the use of reserves beyond internal service funds.

The projected deficit is primarily due to an anticipated 5 percent drop in property tax revenue, the loss of some one-time funding, and increased costs for health insurance premiums and pension contributions.

Staff also emphasized that the county’s outlook could change dramatically, depending on what happens to approximately $30 million at risk because of state-funding reductions and increased county responsibilities recommended by Gov. Jerry Brown in his proposed 2011-12 state budget.

Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors workshop will focus on the Health and Human Services Department, Placer County Library and the Veterans Service Office. All three departments are among those with big stakes in the state budget discussions in Sacramento.

Health and Human Services, the county’s largest department, could be affected dramatically by the state budget.

The governor is seeking to make counties permanently responsible for several programs: mental health; child welfare, foster care and adoption programs; Adult Protective Services; and substance abuse treatment. His proposed budget also calls for changes that would leave fewer residents eligible for such programs as CalWORKs, In-Home Support Services and Medi-Cal.

In a report to the board, county Principal Management Analyst Bekki Riggan notes that the state already bases its funding for health and human service programs on 2001 costs, rather than the actual costs counties face. Counties are mandated by the State to carry-out these programs on behalf of the State regardless of the level of funding provided. That has left Placer County with unfunded costs of roughly $6 million per year that must be covered using county discretionary general fund revenue or eliminated by changes to the department’s services.

“In addition to this chronic underfunding, the state has also deferred and delayed millions of dollars in mandated payments to Placer County in response to the severe state budget deficits since FY 2007-08,” Riggan explains.

She notes that the department’s budget challenges are exacerbated by the increased demand for safety-net services because of population growth and the nation’s economic downturn.

The board will receive some good news Tuesday about the Veterans Service Office.

Gov. Brown proposed eliminating state support for county veterans service offices, a plan that would meant a loss of $200,000 to Placer County.

In her report, Riggan notes that the State Senate and Assembly budget committees have voted to restore funding for county veterans service offices to 2010 levels and legislation has been introduced in the Assembly that calls for fully restoring funding for the offices.

In Placer County, the Veterans Service Office is a four-person operation headed by Veterans Service Officer Rick Buckman. The office promotes the interests and entitlements of veterans, their dependents and survivors through counseling, education, claims assistance and advocacy.

During the 2009-10 fiscal year, the office obtained $29.2 million in new federal benefits for veterans and their families. “It has been estimated that every $1 invested in veterans service offices provides $100 to veterans and the local economy,” Riggan explains.

In his budget proposal, Gov. Brown proposed eliminating state support for county libraries. The Placer County Library would lose $86,000 in state funding.

That loss would add to revenue problems caused by declining property tax revenue. The library’s share of property tax revenue has dropped $400,000, or 10 percent, over the last two years and is expected to decline $87,000 in 2011-12.

“With these continuing revenue reductions, it is becoming increasing difficult to maintain current services,” explains Principal Management Analyst Linda Oakman in a report to board members.

The library manages 11 branch libraries and a bookmobile and provides administrative services to the Placer County Law Library. Using one-time funds set aside for Capital Facilities, Placer County has been able to open a new Rocklin branch and remodel the branches in Colfax, Foresthill and Loomis over the last few years.

Oakman notes in her report that attrition and cost-saving measures introduced by the library have reduced operating costs.

“The most significant savings has been generated by reducing the materials budget, which is the lowest in 20 years,” she explains. “This has an impact on the library’s ability to provide patrons with newly released books and other media.”

Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting will be held at 9 a.m. in the county Administrative Center at 175 Fulweiler Ave. in Auburn.