Santa Clara County staff proposed a $4.6 billion county budget for fiscal year 2014 last week that will rely on outside funding sources, new voter-approved revenues and public union concessions in order to close a $67 million shortfall, County staff said.
The Board of Supervisors will conduct a series of public workshops over the next few weeks to fine-tune the details of the budget, which was proposed by County Executive Jeffrey Smith, before the budget adoption deadline of June 30, according to a press release from County staff.
The $67 million funding gap to continue the current level of County services is “a short respite” from a decade of annual shortfalls closer to the $200 million range, Smith said. Still, the shortfall for 2014 comes on top of significant service cuts already made in recent years.
“The brief respite from a budget deficit that we experienced last year will be short-lived as we face unprecedented levels of uncertainty from every direction - state, federal and legal,” Smith said. “We still do not know the full impacts of pending state budget decisions, federal sequestration and voter-approved Measure A, which would generate desperately needed revenue from the one-eight-cent sales tax (and) is being challenged in court.”
The proposed 2014 budget includes a $2.4 billion general fund proposal, which covers all discretionary and some mandatory services for the fiscal year which begins July 1, 2013.
Part of Smith’s proposed strategy to close the 2014 funding gap is $28.7 million in “departmental solutions” that will not result in layoffs or service cuts, County staff said. In fact, the budget proposal adds 59 jobs to the payroll.
These solutions include about $5.1 million in available state funds to support criminal justice services, and the reimbursement of mental health services costs from the state.
Another $45 million from the voter-approved Measure A one-eighth-cent sales tax will also go a long way to close the coming year’s funding gap, even though a pending lawsuit casts a haze of uncertainty on the viability of that revenue stream, County staff said. The tax would raise $20 million for the general fund, $15 million for a reserve fund to support new programs and a $10 million reserve to address the pending outcomes of healthcare reform, Medi-Cal expansion and federal sequestration.
Voters approved the Measure A tax in the November 2012 election, and County staff expect the court will uphold the measure. If it doesn’t, the County will have to find some other way to fund about $20 million worth of general fund expenses, County staff said.
Finally, the County will save about $21.7 million in proposed labor concessions that would increase employee contributions in order to offset the growing cost of benefit programs including retiree health, pension and health insurance programs, County staff said.
Budget workshops coming up later this month and continuing in June are scheduled at Board of Supervisors chambers at 70 W. Hedding Street in San Jose as follows:
-May 7, 1:30 p.m.
-May 7, 6:30 p.m.
-May 8, 1:30 p.m.
-May 8, 6:30 p.m.
-May 9, 1:30 p.m.
To see the proposed County budget for 2014, visit the County’s website at www.sccgov.org.