County eyes deep cuts

Law enforcement, library, grand jury facing reductions
By: Raheem Hosseini Telegraph Correspondent
-A +A
“Austerity” is a term El Dorado County residents may want to familiarize themselves with. The county is anticipating severe cuts to law enforcement, aging programs, library services, the museum, grand jury and, paradoxically, its economic development arm as it attempts to fill an $11 million deficit looming over next year. While the notion of cuts is nothing new — the county has tightened its belt the past three years — the scope of the reductions is unprecedented. “The only word that keeps coming to me is ‘ugly,’” said senior policy analyst Mike Applegarth, whose County Administrative Office is leading the budget discussions. That deficit figure could change due to labor negotiations, county operations and the overall economy, said Chief Administrative Officer Gayle Erbe-Hamlin, but time is of the essence to start cutting now. Last week, Erbe-Hamlin presented the first half of her office’s plan to the board of supervisors. “As we all know, $5.5 million in sustainable reductions from our current general fund expenditures will require some very difficult decisions,” she said. “The trade-offs are ugly.” Some of the CAO’s suggestions include reducing: • 76 percent of the Grand Jury’s $84,000 budget • 72 percent of the Economic Development Subcommittee’s $180,000 budget • 54 percent of Community Services Aging Programs’ $1.2 million budget • Half of the county museum’s $100,000 budget Under the recommendation, the county would completely eliminate its $250,000 library branch subsidy, while the law and justice departments would see a hit of more than $1.6 million. In addition, the CAO is proposing the elimination of 47 postions. “None of us want to see these reductions, but, as you know, there are simply no other means of attaining a balanced budget next year,” Erbe-Hamlin said. The county has scheduled several public meetings this month and next to explain the current budget situation and the options available. Meetings have already taken place in Placerville and South Lake Tahoe. “We want the county budget to be transparent and accessible,” said Erbe-Hamlin. “This is an opportunity for people who can’t attend a Tuesday morning board of supervisors meeting to provide feedback about the current county budget and future fiscal challenges.” There will also be multiple board workshops in the coming weeks. The CAO is positioning itself to chop the deficit in half by January. As for the remainder, the office is working what Applegarth calls its “long game.” “We’re really banking on some concessions from the bargaining unit to get that second half,” he said.