Supervisors approve $4.95 billion county budget


City News Service

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a $4.95 billion spending plan for the 2010-11 fiscal year beginning Thursday, a drop of nearly 3 percent from the current year.

The supervisors approved a $5.2 billion budget at this time last year.

The 2010-11 spending plan funds 15,841 employee positions, down from about 17,000 a year ago.

County officials had to lay off workers during the past year because of what Supervisor Dianne Jacob characterized as “a triple whammy” budget crunch resulting from lowered state revenue, drops in income from sales and property taxes and investment losses.

“It is the most difficult budget situation that I have faced since I have been on the board,” Jacob said.

Investment losses on Wall Street will force the county to increase contributions to its employee retirement fund.

Jacob and other board members took turns blasting state officials for failing to address budget issues at the state level and continually reducing contributions to local governments — which are supposed to fund programs mandated by the Legislature.

Legislators were playing “Russian roulette” with the state budget, Supervisor Ron Roberts said.

When the state gets around to approving its own budget, “all but certain cuts” will need to be made to the county spending plan, Chief Administrative Officer Walt Ekard said.

The budget will be officially approved on Aug. 3, by which time local officials hope to learn what directions state officials will take with their budget.

Spending will be maintained at around $1.3 billion for public safety and $1.85 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services, but agencies within the Land Use and Environment Group will take the lion’s share of the cuts.

Ekard is forecasting a $4.47 billion budget for 2011-12.