Contra Costa Co. to trim $16M from budget

October 6, 2009 6:43:52 PM PDT
Like many Bay Area counties, Contra Costa continues to labor under the weight of the recession and budget reductions passed down from the state, but the cuts made in Contra Costa County on Tuesday could look small compared with what's looming next year.

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Contra Costa supervisors cut another $16 million from their budget, which makes it a total of $65 million for the year.

"It's kind of like we're always waiting for the other shoe to drop and we actually have a centipede," says Contra Costa County Administrator David Twa.

This time, it means further reductions in day and foster care services for kids and in-home assistance for the disabled and seniors.

"The most vulnerable groups, children and the elderly, will be the most impacted by these budget cuts," says Contra Costa Human Services Director Joe Valentine.

County workers will also feel it in the form of higher health care costs and six mandatory furlough days.

"It's a real sacrifice, people are losing money in addition to what extra they have to pay for health care, but at the end of the day, our people thought it was the right thing to do," says Rollie Katz from the Public Employees Union.

Contra Costa's first furlough day will be next Monday, October 12, 2009. That's when the Contra Costa administration building and most others will be closed. Hospital workers, police and firefighters will be exempt.

"I'm estimating that we'll have to cut an additional $25 to $35 million out of the 2010-11 budget," says Twa.

However, there's more to come. Contra Costa's property and sales tax revenues are expected to plunge five to 7.5 percent next year -- driven by another wave of job losses and foreclosures.

Supervisors also anticipate state lawmakers will pass more of their budget problems onto the counties.

"It's very likely that we certainly would be looking at more layoffs," says Contra Costa Supervisor Susan Bonilla. "It's going to be a lot more cuts, a lot less money. That's going to be impacting the most vulnerable and the most needy within in our community."

That will put more stress on a social safety net already in tatters. As one official put it, about the only thing going up in Contra Costa County is the demand for food stamps, which was up by 50 percent in just the past year.

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