April 19, 2012 | Alameda County officials are preparing for another round of excruciating cuts to programs and services after the announcement Wednesday its $2.5 billion budget has a funding gap of $88.1 million for the next fiscal year--the lowest in four years.
Although the hefty figure and the cuts potentially necessitated by the shortfall spell increased difficulties for the county's youth, underprivileged and seniors, the gap represents a significant uptick in the county's overall economic health. Last year's budget was balanced with over $137 million in cuts, followed by over $152 million the year before. In fact, the county's perennial budget woes over the past decade have not been this low since the 2008-09 budget posted a $73 million funding gap.
Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson said Wednesday, the $88 million deficit is not set in stone and other uncertainties in the next few months could inflate the number and pain incurred on the county. Carson said in a statement that the county is uncertain how the state plans to reimburse it for public safety realignment, in addition, the fate of Gov. Jerry Brown's tax increase initiative will have a negative effect on the county if not passed by voter this November.
"Our first order of business will be to close what is a very substantial shortfall," said Carson. "This will require some very difficult decisions that no doubt will further hamper our ability to deliver services that are very important to people in our community. And we must do so knowing that another round of bad news may be heading our way."
Alameda County Administrator Susan Muranishi delivered the bad economic news Wednesday during a budget work group chaired by Carson. In a similar refrain from previously grim budget announcements over the past few years, Muranishi blamed the current shortfall on the chronically stagnant local and national economy and rising health and pension benefits.
“After a prolonged recession that ate significantly into our resources," said Muranishi, "Alameda County continues to be squeezed by rapidly rising employee health and retirement costs, continued high demand for services and a lackluster economy that undermines our chances for significant revenue growth."
It is not clear which county departments and programs will be hit hardest by another round of sharp cuts, but the Board of Supervisors plan to hold a series of hearings from now to the end of June to identify and finalize next year's budget before the July 1 deadline.
A DECADE OF DEFICITS
FY 2002-03..............(- 73.9)
FY 2005-06..............(- 92.0)
FY 2006-07..............(- 72.2)
FY 2007-08..............(- 52.0)
FY 2008-09..............(- 73.6)
FY 2012-13..............(- 88.1)
Source: Alameda County.