by Chris Metinko
With state officials ready to approve a budget to close a $26.3 billion shortfall in Sacramento, Alameda County leaders will have to head back to work to try to balance the budget on a local level.
The budget deal set to be approved in Sacramento calls for $4.3 billion to be diverted from local governments into the state’s finances. Alameda County will lose about $84 million in tax money over the next two years, said County Administrator Susan Muranishi.
The biggest hit will come from the state’s borrowing of nearly $2 billion in property tax money that goes to local governments. Alameda County will lose $40 million from that cut alone. In addition, the county stands to lose $35 million in gas tax money and $9 million in redevelopment money to the state over the next two years.
“There is no way we can look in to forecast and tell people we are not in for a rough ride,” said Supervisor Keith Carson at Tuesday’s board of supervisors meeting.
Carson added that some of the details of the new state budget deal still are not clear — likely even to those in Sacramento — but that it is clear local governments will lose out.
To that end, Alameda County supervisors agreed Tuesday to join what likely will be a joint lawsuit with many other counties against the governor and the state finance director to try to get back gas tax money, which funds the county’s public works department.
Despite the lawsuit, county officials know they will have to go without.
“We’re clearly at the bottom of the food chain,” Muranishi said. “Clearly we’re going to have a lot of work to do locally.”
Just last month the board of supervisors approved a $2.4 billion budget that closed a $178 million shortfall — the largest ever for the county — and included program cuts and layoffs.
The county budget cut 285 of the county’s 9,316 full-time-equivalent positions, including about 100 positions in the Sheriff’s Office. Many of the job cuts will come from positions already eliminated within the past year, as well as positions currently vacant. Less than half the job cuts will come via layoffs.
The cuts to the county’s Public Protection program, which includes the Sheriff’s Office, were the largest. The county’s Probation Department lost 49 positions, the District Attorney’s Office lost 14 attorney positions, and the Public Defender’s Office lost 15 jobs.
Public protection was not the only affected program area. The county’s health care services cut $30 million from their budgets but avoided layoffs.
The county’s public assistance programs weren’t as lucky, losing $45 million from their budgets and losing 10 vacant positions.