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County may ax 450 positions
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The Stanislaus County Chief Executive Office has revealed its proposed 2009-10 fiscal year budget, which will guide the county's spending until the final budget is adopted in September.

The Board of Supervisors will consider the proposed budget at their 9 a.m., June 9 meeting, which could be continued to June 10 and 11 should public comment require additional time.

The proposed budget calls for reductions of 5 percent, or $5.4 million, in public safety departments, and 12 percent, or $6.7 million, in all general operation departments. Additionally, $8 million in reserve funds will be used to patch shortfalls in the 09-10 budget, with an additional $8 million in reserves projected for use in each of the next two fiscal years.

Forced furloughs will be required in ten departments as a budget saving measure, ranging from eight to 13 days. According to Stanislaus County Assistant Executive Officer Monica Nino, all of the county bargaining units agreed to one year of furloughs in negotiations with Human Resources, saving many county jobs.

Even so, 454 allocated positions are set to become unfunded as a result of the bad budget year, dropping the total county workforce from 4,459 just a year ago to 4,005. However, with 14 of those 454 positions currently filled the county will manage to avoid mass layoffs, which Nino considers the result of the county's prudent planning.

"We started on our budget reduction plan over 18 months ago," said Nino. "Our departments have not been filling positions. The key has been leaving positions vacant."

The budget was drafted by the Chief Executive Office and department heads in response to a projected $34 million shortfall, caused by what county staff have termed an "unprecedented reduction" in discretionary revenue. Compared to last year, property taxes have fallen 12 percent, sales tax has dropped 8 percent, and public safety sales tax is down 11 percent.

However, in the coming months the county could be sent back to the drawing board in response to lower than expected revenues from the state due to the failure of five budget-related propositions on the Statewide Special Election ballot.

"The larger reductions relative to initiatives not passing, those have not been taken into account in this budget," Nino said.

The county could find itself on the hook for $3.4 million in Proposition 1a transportation funds and $1.4 million in Williamson Act land conservation dollars.

Nino stated that the Chief Executive Office would look to revise the county budget as soon as more information is known about the state budget, and that the county's goal is, "to not spend above our resources."

Even if the county manages to avoid being hit by state cuts this year, Nino projects further reductions in next year's county budget - and in the services provided by the county - as the county will be unable to carry over unused funds as they have this year. County predictions do not see the economy recovering until the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

"With unemployment going the way it is, people have a greater need for county services," Nino said. "Unfortunately, we're not going to have the resources to make those services available."

The Stanislaus County 2009-2010 Proposed Budget is available for viewing at the Board of Supervisors Office, 1010 10th St., Modesto, or online at