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Placer County's budget blues projected to continue in 2010 and 2011

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Placer County’s budget blues are projected to continue through next year and into 2011. Supervisors heard a gloomy forecast Tuesday from the CEO’s Office budget staff. The mid-year report included an early look at what could occur over the next two budget years. Projections are for a $20 million budget shortfall in 2010-11 and $33 million in 2011-12. Plans are to use $4 million each year from reserves to help shore up some of the potential deficit but supervisors were told that work is already underway to find ways to balance the numbers during the most severe recession to hit the nation and Placer County in decades. County CEO Tom Miller said that Placer was able to cut $35 million in expenses last year in the wake of declining sales tax and other revenues. That included regular days off without pay for employees and a hiring freeze. “It’s not going to get any easier, it’s going to be challenging,” Miller said, adding that a major priority will be retaining services for residents. Miller reported several labor options can be considered in trimming the deficit, including wage freezes, continuing furloughs, reducing work hours and layoffs. Supervisor Jim Holmes, who represents the Auburn area, said the county will be particularly hurt from a drop in revenue from property taxes. With a decline in the cost of living, next year’s property tax adjustment will not have a 2 percent blanket increase. “County revenues are going to lag for at least two years,” Holmes said. “We’re in this a little longer than normal.” This year’s budget is down $81 million from 2008-09, with projections that the final budget figure of $784 million will hold through the end of the fiscal year in June.