Alameda County has a balanced budget for next year — at least for now.
Voicing grave concern for what is still going on in Sacramento with the state budget, the county's Board of Supervisors approved a $2.4 billion spending plan that closes a $178 million shortfall — the largest ever for the county — and includes program cuts and layoffs.
The new budget cuts 285 of the county's 9,316 full-time-equivalent positions from the last fiscal year, including roughly 100 positions in the Sheriff's Office — although many of the job cuts will come from positions already eliminated within the last year, as well as positions currently vacant.
Less than half the job cuts will come via layoffs.
County Administrator Susan Muranishi called the budget one of the most difficult to balance, requiring several hard decisions for supervisors, but in the end is one the county can count on.
"It is not overly conservative or speculative," Muranishi said of the budget.
Alice Lai-Bitker, president of the board, called the budget process "devastating and heartbreaking."
The cuts to the county's Public Protection program, which includes the Sheriff's Office, were the largest, as the county's Probation Department will lose 49 positions, the District Attorney's Office will cut 14 attorney positions and the Public Defender's Office will lose 15 jobs.
The supervisors, however, agreed to talk with unions, especially the
"If they want to stop layoffs, they have to give back," Supervisor Nate Miley said at a budget hearing Tuesday.
Along with the loss of staff, the Sheriff's Office also would disband its full-time Marine Patrol Unit and reduce visiting hours at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin from five days a week to two.
It's also expected the reduced sheriff staffing will affect the delivery of patrol service, the enforcement of traffic violations, and the investigation of certain crimes.
The cuts also are threatening to close Fairmont Animal Shelter, although the supervisors said they will explore fee increases at the shelter and other measures to try and keep the facility open at least on a part-time basis.
Public protection was far from the only affected program area. The county's health care services were forced to cut $30 million from their budgets, but avoided layoffs.
The county's public assistance programs weren't as lucky, losing $45 million from their budgets and losing 10 vacant positions.
More cuts may follow as state lawmakers haggle over a new state budget. Muranishi said the county may have to revisit its budget and make additional cutbacks during the year if the state continues to take money from the counties.
Muranishi said the state's issues were a serious concern, as the county receives more than 50 percent of its revenue from the state and federal governments.
Muranishi called the state's proposed cuts to social and health programs draconian and said the state's unwillingness to raise taxes may likely mean diverting property tax away from the county and to Sacramento, something that would cost the county an additional $40 million for the upcoming fiscal year.
Because of the uncertainty in the state budget, the supervisors agreed to allocate $6.5 million for future budget balancing.