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County short $49M

Since 2008-09 non-public safety departments will have had to cut 15%. Sheriff's trying to save some employees.

May 19, 2010|By Erik Holmes | OCLNN.com

SANTA ANA — The Orange County government's proposed budget for the next fiscal year calls for a third straight year of painful cuts as the county's revenue sources are expected to continue their slump due to the economic downturn.

The fiscal 2010-11 budget proposal, released Monday, draws about $36 million from the reserve fund and other one-time funding sources, but still leaves the county about $49 million short of what would be needed to maintain the same level of services as this year.

The proposal calls for county departments to shrink their budgets by 5% during the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. That would mean that since 2008-09, all non-public safety departments will have cut their budgets by 15%. Public safety agencies such as the Sheriff's Department, district attorney and Probation Department have cut closer to 10%.

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Bob Franz, the county's chief financial officer, said the budget cuts are necessary because the improving economy has not yet translated into more revenues for the county.

"This is probably our most difficult budget we've seen during this recession," he said. "Still coming out of the recession, we have not yet seen any significant revenue impacts from the economic recovery."

Overall, the county's budget for next year is proposed to be $5.4 billion, about the same as the current year. But the county's discretionary budget, which pays for many public safety and community service programs, will shrink from $701 million this year to $688 million in 2010-11.

The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to approve the budget June 29. Before then, the county will hold a public budget workshop May 28 and the board will hold hearings June 15 and 16.

County budget officials blame the proposed cuts on the continuing decline of property tax revenues, which provide about three-quarters of the county's general funds. Though revenues from sales tax and vehicle license fees are rising again, property tax revenues are projected to decline another 1.3% next year.

"Property tax responds slower to what's going on in the economy," Franz said, "(and) that's the major factor affecting our revenues."

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