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Supervisors Warm to Budget Proposal

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County supervisors gave a generally warm reception to Orange County’s 1997-98 budget proposal on Tuesday and are scheduled to vote on the spending plan next week.

The $3.66-billion budget is actually 2% smaller than last year’s spending plan because of lower debt service payments, reduced demand for some types of public assistance and a county reorganization that eliminated more than 200 jobs.

The county’s public protection departments--including sheriff, district attorney and probation--were the biggest winners. The agencies are slated to gain 272 positions and increase their combined budget from $550 million to $632 million.

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Some health care advocates have complained about the increase for law enforcement, but supervisors strongly backed the allocations.

“I don’t think we have to apologize for our commitment to public protection,” Board of Supervisors Chairman William G. Steiner said. “It’s a top priority and what our constituents expect.”

Steiner also said he was encouraged by the variety of “preventive” health, social services and crime prevention programs contained in the spending plan.

Supervisors also enthusiastically backed the placement of $24 million toward early repayment of bankruptcy debts, saying the move will help rebuild the county’s credibility on Wall Street.

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