County's budget shortfall will cause cuts in health care, sheriff's office

Underfunded county social programs impacted by lingering recession

Alameda County administrator Susan Muranishi said Monday that a $65-million funding gap for the 2015/2016 fiscal year that starts July 1 will force reductions in several key areas of county programs.

Her plan is to reduce general government spending by $14.8 million, health care spending by $15.8 million, funding for public assistance programs by $14.7 million and a cut of $19.8 million from Public Protection.

While increases in sales, property and corporate taxes have created a surplus revenue stream in the state budget, those surpluses will be used to fund education under Proposition 98 guidelines and also for adding to the state's "rasiny day fund," she said.

Muranishi said much of that revenue will not be used for currently underfunded county social programs in the state impacted by the recession, including in Alameda County.

While the unemployment in the county has dropped to 4.5%, half of what it was in 2012, a recent report by the Economic Policy Institue states that income for the working poor has remained stagnant. This not only impacts county services such as Cal Fresh, Medi-Cal, and Cal-Works, but can have long term impacts on the county's revenues in the face of possible future recessions, she said.

"We also know that when another recession hits, it will be double jeopardy for counties," she wrote in a report to the county board of supervisors. "As safety net providers, the demand for our services will rise at the same time that county revenues decline, severely limiting our ability to support the needy."

She added that although economic growth is anticipated for the next few years, the county will remain reserved in managing it's budget.

"While there is a surplus in the state budget, the county is still dealing with a $65 million dollar gap," noted Supervisor Keith Carson, chairman of the supervisors' budget work group.

"The county has to cut from major areas such as health care, public assistance, and public protection to balance the budget, and these are services we are still responsible for providing," Carson added.

Carson urged those individuals and organizations that will be impacted by the budget cutbacks to attend county board meetings next week to offer their ideas for how to handle the new fiscal year budget allocations.

The board's budget hearings will take place at the County Building at 11 a.m. Monday, June 22; 2 p.m. Tuesday; 1 p.m. Wednesday, and 11 a.m. next Friday, June 26, when the final FY 2015/16 budget will be adopted.

All hearings are open to the public. For more information, call (510) 272-6695.

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