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July 1, 2011 > Alameda County adopts 2011-12 budget

Alameda County adopts 2011-12 budget

Submitted By Susan Muranishi

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors on Friday adopted a $2.5 billion Final Budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2011-2012 that calls for eliminating more than 100 County jobs while reducing some key services to close a $137.9 million funding gap. The Final Budget was adopted as Alameda County continues to grapple with rising demand for its services and diminishing resources. Unemployment in the County remains stubbornly high as a slow economic turnaround provides limited financial relief to the County, while rising employee benefit and retirement costs and reductions in State and federal spending continue to drain local resources.

The Proposed Budget supports a workforce of 9,049 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions. This figure includes the County's reduction of 111 FTE to balance its budget for the coming fiscal year. These budget-balancing moves come amid deep uncertainty about pending decisions at the State level that could profoundly affect Alameda County finances. Alameda County officials said they continue to be deeply concerned about a plan for "realignment'' that would shift almost $6 billion in criminal justice, health and welfare programs from the State to local government.

Several collaborative efforts that have helped to improve efficiencies and avoid much more severe cuts in services to the community include:

* A collaboration by Social Services Agency and the Health Care Services Agency on Medi-Cal enrollments, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) advocacy and evaluation services, and the provision of Public Health Nursing for In-Home Support Services (IHSS) services.

* The Parolee Reentry Court, an effort involving local judges, prosecutors, public defenders, parole agents and court appointed specialists that employ a collaborative justice model and evidence-based practices to reduce recidivism, revocation and re-incarceration.

County officials also touted many of the innovative and effective programs that will be funded in the 2011-12 as examples of the creative ways Alameda County is seeking to improve the quality of life in the community, despite a economic climate and cuts enacted by the State:

* The Title IV-E Waiver demonstration project, an effort now in its fifth year in which the Social Services Agency works with the Probation Department, Public Defender and various community partners to help sexually exploited minors; American Indian youth and their families; transition age youth; and families exiting the child welfare system.

* The award-winning County Library system anticipates more than 5 million library visits in the year ahead, with steadily growing attendance fueled in large part by efforts to provide residents with practical ways to deal with the challenges of the recession. Special programming for children and teens include the Summer Reading Game and the "Booklegger Program" which uses volunteers to give book talks to school age children.

* Despite the controversy surrounding the use of redevelopment proceeds to help balance the State Budget, Alameda County is moving forward with several responsible projects that expand and preserve affordable housing opportunities for low- and moderate-income residents, and promote infrastructure improvements, property development and job creation in the unincorporated area communities. Construction of the Ashland Teen Center is expected to commence in addition to design of both the Cherryland Fire Station and the San Lorenzo Library expansion.

* Plans by Alameda County's health care system to expand services to under and uninsured residents in preparation for full implementation of Health Care Reform in 2014. Beginning in July 2011, Alameda County will roll out the Health Plan of Alameda County (HealthPAC) which will expand safety net health services by over $35 million. This will be the most significant expansion of indigent health services in the County's history. When fully implemented, HealthPAC will offer free comprehensive health benefits to approximately 60,000 residents through expansion of Medi-Cal and another 107,000 will get a sliding scale subsidy via the new California Health Care Exchange.

Work to protect local resources does not end with the passage of the Final Budget, especially given pending efforts to pass a State Budget that likely will severely impact resources for local programs including redevelopment. "We are continuing on a downward slide in terms of our ability to fund services that are vital to Alameda County residents,'' Supervisor Keith Carson said. "The actions in Washington DC and Sacramento continue to turn up the heat on local government's ability to provide these essential services.''

Nearly $57 million in savings applied to FY 2011-12 have been generated through the County's Fiscal Management Reward program, which credits Departments/Agencies for savings they accrue during the year by operating programs efficiently and effectively within budget, to avoid further program and staffing reductions. Most County employee labor groups continue to forego planned salary increases and are paying a share of health benefit premiums to help contain costs, helping to limit employee salaries and benefit costs and the size of the budget gap. In addition, all of Alameda County's public safety unions have agreed to reduce the pension benefits newly-hired employees receive, with similar sacrifices being made by community-based organizations that perform contract services on behalf of the County.

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