By Steven Tavares

The slow pace of economic recovery in Alameda County and a steep uptick in demand for social services has the county administrator forecasting a budget deficit of nearly $138 million for the next fiscal year.

Despite another round of potentially brutal cuts to staff and services, the budget shortfall has decreased for the second straight year from a record of $177.6 million in 2009-10 to $152.4 million last year. There is little solace, though, in the fact more residents hurting from the Great Recession continue to demand additional services from the county.

Alameda County Administrator Susan Muranishi said Thursday there has been a 29 percent increase in demand for public assistance, from $75 million last year to a projected $97 million next year.

Muranishi reminded the Alameda County Board of Supervisors earlier this month, over two-thirds of last year’s funding gap was closed with one-time-only funds. She detailed some of those revenues left bare this time around, including a loss of over $19 million in federal stimulus dollars and a 2.6 percent decrease in county revenues.

Among the factors leading to a third consecutive shortfall in the six-digits, according to Muranishi, is a slow recovery, high unemployment remaining stagnant at 11 percent and home values significantly down over $300,000 from just three years ago.

The Board of Supervisors will begin identifying areas of the county’s $2.5 billion budget to target for reduction starting this week. A proposed budget is slated for presentation in early June with approval likely at the June 24 board meeting.