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Another Tough Budget Year

Sonora, CA — The Tuolumne County Supervisors will need to make some tough decisions when planning next year’s budget.

CAO Craig Pedro presented a multi-year budget forecast at this morning’s meeting. Taking in the various revenue sources, the county is projected to face a roughly $3.3 million shortfall next fiscal year. Without making any adjustments, the shortfall for the following four years is expected to range from $3.1-$3.5 million.

“We have leveled out, and we are at about a $3.3 million problem,” said Pedro. “We need to make a hard adjustment (cuts) in fiscal year 2013-14 to balance the budget moving forward. I think that will establish what has been referred to as ‘the new normal.’”

Tuolumne County has cut its total budget notably over the past five years. The current fiscal year budget is $134.5 million, down $56.6 million from fiscal year 2006-07. It is noted that a significant chunk of the cost savings were from transitioning services of Tuolumne General Hospital over to the private sector. The county has also implemented furloughs, reduced salaries, and made some changes to the benefits packages.

“I wish we were through this, but we have one more hard adjustment that is going to have to be implemented with this coming year’s budget,” added Pedro.

During Pedro’s speech, it was noted that there are still several uncertainties at the state and federal level which could impact the budget. Federal Sequester cuts could take effect later this year, depending on actions of the Congress and President. The Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act is set to expire, and it’s unknown whether there is enough support for its extension.

At the state level, the county is concerned that high taxes and overregulation could drive businesses out of the state, which would hurt the annual revenues. The AB 109 prisoner realignment cost shift has also not reached its peak.

In addition, it was noted that there are questions if the new hotel at Black Oak Casino will have an impact on the Transient Occupancy Tax revenues. The hotel will bring additional jobs and visitors to the region, but it is not required to pay the TOT because it is on Native American land. The question is whether the hotel will take business from other local hotels, which do pay the TOT.

Because of state mandates and other requirements, the county Supervisors only control about 29% of the overall spending in the budget. Here was the breakdown for the current fiscal year:

General Government – $10.9 million (28%)
Public Protection – $19.7 million (50.8%)
Libraries and Recreation – $1.8 million (4.5%)
Transfers to Other Funds – $4.6 million (11.9%)
Contingencies – $1.9 million (4.8%)

Budget polices and strategies moving forward will be discussed at the March 5th Supervisors meeting.


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