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County will have to make do with less
Even as Yuba County supervisors approved an interim budget for fiscal 2009-10 Tuesday with a lot of cuts, there was plenty of frustration that similar actions seem to be next to impossible at the state level.
Both supervisors and county officials said the county's $160.8 million budget, though about $10 million less than the previous fiscal year, shows the value of prudent financial decisions in years when the coffers are flush.
"In my mind, the picture you present contrasts how you and the county handle money compared to how the state and legislature handle money," Supervisor Hal Stocker said to County Administrator Robert Bendorf. "It's hard for politicians and governments to put anything aside for a rainy day. There seems to be a great temptation for them to spend it all and more."
The county's financial woes and the resulting budget, Bendorf said, have a basis in both Sacramento's actions and the local economy.
Assistant County Administrator Randy Margo told supervisors that supplemental property taxes were about $11.9 million in 2008-09, reflecting the slowdown in new home construction and sales.
As well, sales and use taxes will total about $2.1 million, short of the $2.3 million county officials had budgeted for in 2008-09, he said. For the new fiscal year, both of those revenue sources will be budgeted at the lower levels.
"In essence, what I'm telling you and the public is that we don't anticipate any significant growth in property or sales taxes in the coming fiscal year," he said.
Bendorf said state cuts also affected the bottom line, particularly in public works funding, where Yuba County will see about $3.25 million in taxes designated for road repairs go to the state instead.
The state will also charge more for processing crime-scene DNA evidence for counties, and give counties less for social services and health services, he said.
And if state legislators don't close a $25 billion state deficit soon, Bendorf said, California will be out of money on July 1, which means without borrowing, it could stop its payments to local governments.
That could lead the county to stop its programs, borrow money, or shift money internally, he said.
"We're not there yet, but our budget committee is preparing a list of options for you to consider should that happen," he told supervisors.
State legislators have so far rejected plans to suspend 2004's Proposition 1A and borrow money from local governments, he said, but still may tap redevelopment money and shift more prisoners to local jails.
The budget supervisors approved Tuesday on a unanimous vote is an interim spending plan until the state passes a budget, which may not happen until well into summer.
"Accepting this is accepting that it's also fluid and changing," board chair John Nicoletti said of the interim budget. "We'll have to look forward to the end of July and see where the dust settles out at and go into our budget hearings."
Bendorf said his own frustration with the state's budget situation stems from a tendency by those involved to blame
others and not do enough to improve the state's economy, which suffers from no end of bad news lately.
Supervisors will have a first round of budget hearings next month, then another round after the state approves its budget. The second set of hearings is scheduled for August but could be pushed back into September or further.