Countywide : Supervisors Give Final OK to Budget

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday gave final approval to a $3.7-billion budget plan amid concerns that the state might still claim county revenue to balance its books.

The county's budget, which officials have hailed as the rosiest in three years, calls for the creation of more than 900 county jobs. In the last few years, the county has cut 2,000 jobs from its work force.

The new budget also maintains spending at current levels for most programs.

But county officials said Tuesday that the budget picture could darken considerably if the state's budget falls out of balance by more than 1%. Such an imbalance would trigger automatic state cuts in revenue to the county, forcing the county to reduce its own budget.

"We really need to proceed with caution," said Supervisor William G. Steiner, who last week attended a meeting of the California State Assn. of Counties in which the state's financial outlook was discussed.

Steiner said that the state's $57-billion budget is within $56 million of triggering cutbacks.

The state failed to receive about $400 million from the federal government to pay for the jailing of felons who are illegal immigrants, Steiner said.

State revenue is running about $377 million higher than estimated. But officials fear that property tax revenue could eventually fall because many homeowners are having their properties reassessed to lower values.

Steiner recommended that the county conduct a monthly review of its budget instead of waiting for the customary mid-year check in January.

The county will also attempt to delay the hiring of about 200 workers until Nov. 15, when the state will issue a "report card" on its budget.

The 200 jobs include positions in the Orange County Sheriff's Department, Social Services Agency and Health Care Agency.

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