State budget gives little relief to city

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By JOSHUA WOLFSON

The state Legislature has finally approved a budget for this year, but Sonora City Administrator Greg Applegate isn't rejoicing.

"It is nothing more than a Band-Aid," he said. "We need a structural change."

The nearly $100 billion budget package, which the Assembly passed Tuesday, did little to address the concerns of local leaders who argue the state government balances its budget on the back of cities and counties. "Local government is in a position where we continue to get raided," Applegate said.

Gov. Gray Davis has said he will the sign the budget Saturday. The plan includes $13 billion in cuts and was approved 29 days after the constitutional deadline for passing a budget.

Legislators had hoped the budget package would eliminate a $38 billion projected shortfall, but now say the deficit will be $8 billion by next summer.

Under the Assembly's budget package, the city of Sonora will see its budget surplus shrink from about $69,000 to $37,000.

The decline would have been larger under the budget plan passed by the Senate late Sunday.

However, language added to the Assembly bill will result in about $21,000 savings for the city in the form of reimbursements for county jail booking fees which will help offset a $53,000 loss in vehicle license fee revenues, Applegate said. "We still will have a little wiggle room," he said.

Last year, the city received about $239,000 in license fees, which are a tax on car owners based on the value of their vehicles.

The fees help pay for city services like police and public works.

The final budget package actually calls for the state to pay back the loss in license fee revenues in 2006, although many budget watchers remain skeptical.

"I really want to believe our local legislators ? but history does not support them paying it back," said Debbie Olson of the League of California Cities.

The Assembly's budget also restored some of the cuts made to redevelopment funding, which pays for things like improvement projects and low-income housing programs.

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