OAKLAND -- Alameda County supervisors approved a $2.7 billion budget Friday that closed a $80 million deficit while also setting aside cash for employee raises.
The county was able to make some positive steps in its budget because the deficit it faced was almost $8 million less than last year's and marked only the second time in the last five years that the shortfall was less than $100 million.
"This was a daunting task under some extreme circumstances," County Administrator Susan Muranishi said as the board unanimously approved the budget. "There were contributions from all of the program areas."
More than half of the deficit was erased through savings in the 2012-13 budget that expires Sunday. The county did not spend more than $43 million allocated last year, allowing those funds to be transferred to the 2013-14 budget to help reduce the deficit.
Yet, county supervisors were forced to find areas to cut and they agreed with Muranishi's proposal to balance the cuts between the reduction of ongoing programs and one-time savings.
The supervisors agreed to cut about $10 million from ongoing programs, such as capital projects, a move that will delay completion of accessibility compliance for county-owned buildings and hazardous material abatements.
Most of the one-time savings was found from the money departments did not spend in the 2012-13 budget year.
The county saw some increases in revenues as unemployment and home foreclosures declined and home values increased. Those changes have the county forecasting increases in sales tax revenue and property tax assessment rolls.
However, concerns remain about an uncertain future for state and federal budgets, which fund more than half of the county's general fund.
Muranishi said the county must continue to be vigilant about how the state handles its budget and Gov. Jerry Brown's continuing efforts to transfer financial responsibility to counties.
Instead of restoring deep cuts made during the recession, Brown has proposed moving even more responsibility for social services to Alameda County, which about one in six residents rely on for assistance.
His most controversial proposal involves $1.5 billion in savings projected from the Medi-Cal expansion under the Affordable Care Act that Brown wants the county to use to fund social safety programs.
California counties have reacted with alarm. Alameda County alone expects to continue covering 100,000 indigent patients who will not be eligible or enrolled in a health insurance plan and, Muranishi pointed out, the projected savings are still theoretical.
Adding to the anxiety, the county expects to lose more than $7 million as a consequence of sequestration cuts.
Supervisors set aside $12 million in the budget to account for unanticipated costs.