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April 22, 2011 > Alameda County grapples with budget gap

Alameda County grapples with budget gap

Submitted By Alameda County administration

Alameda County is projecting a $137.9 million budget gap for the 2011-12 fiscal year.

County Administrator Susan S. Muranishi said the budget gap reflects economic factors squeezing County finances - revenue declines that include the loss of millions in federal stimulus dollars and the expiration of State vehicle license fee funds for public safety programs, combined with increased costs driven by rising retirement and health care premiums. Muranishi also noted that Alameda County's use of a wide array of one-time reduction strategies to close past budget shortfalls exacerbates the coming year's funding gap and limits the County's options to close it.

"By itself the budget shortfall we face in the coming fiscal year is very large,'' Muranishi said. "But this comes on the heels of several difficult budget years that have forced us to make significant reductions. Our budget-balancing options now are limited and are likely to be very difficult, further diminishing our resources as demand for County services continues to climb.''

The projected budget gap was released at a meeting of Alameda County's Budget Workgroup, a committee of County elected officials, department heads, community stakeholders and concerned residents who meet regularly to help the County prepare its annual budget. The County's financial update comes only a few weeks after Governor Brown signed off on $11.2 billion in cuts to the State budget, reductions that largely will impact health and human services programs. These cuts mean that thousands of people in Alameda County are already bracing for significant impacts to services for low-income families, children and the elderly.

Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson, who chairs the Budget Workgroup, said: "We have known for some time that this would be another difficult financial year, but Thursday's news was still very difficult to receive. We are left now with some very difficult decisions in order to balance our budget ? decisions that no doubt will further hamper our ability to deliver services that are very important to people in our community, those struggling to find adequate health care, child and senior care and other basic necessities.''

Muranishi said Alameda County's 2010-11 budget is balanced, and will end the current fiscal year in balance due to prudent budgeting and tough choices - including ongoing cost-cutting measures throughout the year. The large budget gap for 2011-12 is not unexpected - Alameda County leaders have known for some time that revenue declines due to the loss of federal stimulus funding and State and federal budget reductions, combined with increased demand for services, would outpace gains caused by a modest rebound in the local economy. County officials have also been working with stakeholders - organized labor, community based organizations and other community partners - to keep them apprised of Alameda County's budgetary difficulties so that they can begin to plan accordingly.

Details of the budget presentation can be found at http://www.acgov.org/budget/BWG2011-04-14MOE.pdf. The Budget Workgroup will consider reduction targets for each program area to help guide decisions in trimming budgets. Muranishi said she plans on delivering a Proposed Alameda County Budget to the Board of Supervisors on June 9. Budget hearings are scheduled for mid-June and it is hoped that the Board will adopt a Final Budget for 2011-12 on June 24.

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