County passes $1.82B budgetBy Michelle Durand
County supervisors yesterday passed a $1.82 billion budget but, with state officials still haggling over a $19 billion deficit, local officials know future tweaks will still happen to the bottom line.
The budget presented by County Manager David Boesch included little based on how state budget decisions will trickle down to local coffers. Instead, the board will make adjustments in the middle of the fiscal year after legislators approve the state budget.
Meanwhile, supervisors approved their own budget which is slightly higher than the recommended budget finalized in June and includes six more positions. The board unanimously signed off on the budget after first adding back in $61,000 to extend the SMART team - a program allowing medics to conduct psychiatric evaluations on-scene and determine if a hold is necessary - until the end of the year and $1.5 million for electronic medical records. Both additions come from the Health System's $14.4 million in departmental reserves.
Once the state passes its budget, Supervisor Carole Groom suggested revisiting a discussion about increasing access to medical care at the county's clinics.
In June, the board considered giving the Health System $10 million for priority services and to backfill cuts. Director Jean Fraser actually said the money was preferable for one-time uses rather than delaying inevitable cuts and relying on uncertain funding streams.
When making the list of priorities, some programs like HOME, a case management program to reduce emergency room visits, fell to the wayside.
"It isn't where the greatest unmet need is," said Louise Rogers, director of the Behavioral Health and Recovery Services division.
The Board of Supervisors also included $200,000 in one-time money for the Department of Housing to whittle away its half-million structural deficit and "buy them time" to right themselves," as Boesch described it.
Director Duane Bay said the hope for the department is working with nonprofits that may not have the clout to gain grants or matching funds. While part of the strategy is foreclosure counseling for those who already have homes, "where the rubber meets the road is getting loan modifications from banks."
The budget up for adoption Tuesday did not include the agreement absorbing the San Carlos Police Department into the Sheriff's Office. That matter will come back as a mid-year budget change.
The lack of a state budget also means the county will have to adjust its figures later to accommodate cuts or changes.
Many of the unknowns fall in the health arena and while some proposals appear off the table, Fraser said it is still too early to count on it.
"If the ducks line up, we should get that money but we don't control those ducks," she said.
In addition to working out is current year budget, county officials continue working on ways to eliminate a structural deficit that currently stands at $70 million and is projected to hit $124 million by 2014-15 without action.
Boesch, the Board of Supervisors and department heads will meet next week to brainstorm better ways of forecasting and budgeting.
Copyright ©2010 San Mateo Daily Journal. Published 09/28/2010.