Alameda County Administrator Expects Triple Digit Deficit

BAD BUDGET NEWS FLOWS DOWNHILL FROM WASHINGTON TO STATE TO COUNTY TO CITIES
By Steven Tavares

OAKLAND – County department heads spent hours Tuesday explaining the sorry shape of their respective budget forecasts while a dazed Alameda County Board of Supervisors guzzled coffee to stay alert. When it is all added up, the county’s deficit will likely hit “triple digits,” the county administrator said.

While a detailed budget forecast will not be available until April 14, County Administrator Susan Muranishi constructed a less-than-rosy budget scenario seemingly plagued with deepening deficits from the federal level on down.

Last year the Board of Supervisor balanced a record $152.4 million budget shortfall featuring stinging cuts to staff and much-needed social programs. To make matter worse, Muranishi said last year’s deficit was cured with 69 percent of one-time-only funding sources.

Much of the fear for this next fiscal years surrounds a torpid housing market in the Bay Area. Ninety percent of the county’s revenues come from property taxes. With home prices plummeting by a median average of nearly $300,000 over the past three years, there is much to be worried about.

Just a quarter of the county’s revenue, though, is discretionary, said Muranishi. Most of it comes from the state and federal government, but they will not do much to help the situation.

California is struggling to balance a $26 billion shortfall with the possibility rising for an “all cuts” budget after Gov. Jerry Brown ended negotiations with state Republicans last week. News from Washington Tuesday suggests Republicans may also allow a shut down of the federal government this Friday if they don’t secure additional cuts to the deficit from the president.

Tuesday’s early work session is the first of many discussion the board of supervisors will hold over the next two months. They hope to approve a budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year by the end of June.

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