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$14.5 million deficit in county budget

June 26, 2002|By LAURA MITCHELL

Staff Writer

County administrators presented the Board of Supervisors with a budget Tuesday for fiscal 2002-03 and 2003-04 that includes a general fund deficit of up to $14.5 million.

The high deficit, possibly the highest the county has seen, is the result of increased costs of doing business. Expenses increased faster than revenues, Assistant County Executive Officer Robertta Burns said.

An example is the $2.2 million deficit in the county sheriff's jail operations. The county budgeted for and depended on money brought in when federal prisoners are housed in county jails. But this year federal prisoners have been diverted to new private prisons.


County Executive Officer Ann Capela said three things are affecting the deficit: salaries, benefits and costs of doing business. She said the county lost money on sales tax, which dropped after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

County employee salaries and benefits went up this year when the supervisors negotiated increases. The increases made retirement more attractive, especially to public safety workers. Sheriff Harold Carter said 11 people retired from his department.

The Sheriff's Office, one of the largest county departments with about 260 employees, had employees receiving salary increases ranging from 3 to 18 percent. The average increase ranged from about $2,000 to $4,000 annually per employee, plus benefits.

Burns said the county faced a large increase in retirement costs because of a recent Internal Revenue Service rule on how health benefits are paid.

She clarified the budget presented to the board Tuesday was a tabulation of raw numbers, not a recommended budget.

Capela added she was required to present a tabulated budget to the board Tuesday but the budget presented is not something she would want to live with. The supervisors told staff to come back by July 16 with a balanced budget.

"Between then and now we'll do a lot of number-crunching," Burns said.

The county Board of Supervisors scheduled budget hearings for 9 a.m. Aug. 5 for fiscal 2002-03 and 2003-04.

Capela is considering departmental public budget hearings on the budget. She said she wants the process to be as transparent as possible.

>> Staff Writer Laura Mitchell can be reached at 337-3452 or

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