Los Angeles County's chief executive officer unveiled a $23.3 billion proposed budget Monday that closes a $221 million gap mostly through one-time solutions, while avoiding new furloughs or laying off county workers.
Even though it represents a $1 billion drop in spending compared to last year, Chief Executive Officer William Fujioka called the plan a "balanced budget without a critical reduction in services of any sort, and (one that) also avoids any major layoffs."
But he also acknowledged that it does not factor in potentially dramatic cutbacks in funding from the state and federal governments that have yet to be determined.
Fujioka's plan to eliminate the deficit includes $35.7 million in operational spending cuts and $184.3 million in "one-time budget solutions."
The latter includes cobbling together surplus money that did not get spent last year from various projects, using certain local taxes to support programs in unincorporated cities, and creating a new financing structure for capital programs.
Fujioka also eliminated 257 vacant positions, leaving the county with 101,039 positions overall, and projected increases of 5 percent in sales tax revenue, 0.76 percent in property tax revenue, and 1.8 percent in investment earnings.
Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky criticized the extensive reliance on one-time budget solutions.
"My main concern is that we continue to rely heavily on one-time revenues to meet our operating budget and this is not a sustainable course," he said.
Fujioka conceded the county's budget is vulnerable to state and federal cutbacks, but said he could not anticipate how much of an impact those would have, since budget deliberations are still ongoing.
"If we were to go through an analysis of every single iteration, every single version, not only of the federal but also the state budget, we'd be changing something every week," he said.
To date, however, he estimated the state already has cut $336.4 million in funding to county-administered health and social services programs, including Medi-Cal, CalWORKS and mental health services.
Fujioka said any further cutbacks would have "a horrific impact."
"What you'll see is providers throughout the whole county who will stop seeing Medicare and Medi-Cal patients as a consequence," he warned. "If (patients) don't have that option, their only choice is to come to the county. We are the facility of last resort, and we already have long lines in our emergency rooms because of unemployment and people losing their health care."
Yaroslavsky urged the state government to resolve its budget crisis, calling it "a cloud that's hanging over all of local government in California."
"This is not a close call," Yaroslavsky said. "The governor proposed a budget that was based half on cuts and half on extending the temporary taxes for another five years, and they're one or two votes short in the Legislature of getting that done."
"The longer they wait, the more uncertainty there is on the rest of us in the state," he added. "It makes it impossible for us to properly plan and manage not only our fiscal affairs, but makes it harder for us to fulfill our mission."
Supervisor Don Knabe also expressed frustration over the uncertainty.
"For years we have been prudent, saving for the bad times in the good times," he said. "While the global economic crisis is certainly impacting us, we are not facing the dramatic shortfalls, massive program cuts and severe layoffs of other levels of government.
"We have been steadily making cuts and reviewing our operations," he added. "Unfortunately, we now have to worry about others who haven't been as disciplined."
Yaroslavsky warned that the county budget is "really getting down to the bare bones."
"Layoff and furlough avoidance is only possible so long as we have adequate reserves and the economy turns around and we have adequate revenues," he said