Budget could be final today

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By SCOTT PESZNECKER

A day ahead of schedule, Calaveras County supervisors will likely agree on a final county budget today.

Yesterday was the first day of budget hearings, and supervisors listened as department heads recited their financial wish lists for the 2003-04 fiscal year.

It was nothing supervisors hadn't heard during study sessions in the last few weeks.

The board's key task will be cutting $481,000 from the draft $72.3 million version of the county's budget to achieve a balanced spending plan, County Administrative Officer Tom Mitchell said.

"They know the numbers, and at the very end tomorrow, they'll make decisions about what to fund and what not to fund and what to do with the deficit," Mitchell said.

If adopted at a balanced $71.8 million, Calaveras County's 03-04 budget will be about 10 percent more than last year's $65.2 million spending plan.

This year's hearings were scheduled for yesterday, today and tomorrow, but Mitchell said he expects a completed budget by noon today. Supervisors could then adopt the document at their Sept. 22 board meeting.

Supervisor Merita Callaway said yesterday that making today's final choices will be difficult.

"We really don't know how much we have or don't have," she said.

The possible recall of Gov. Gray Davis, she said, could change amounts of state funding and cause the county to go back to the drawing board, depending on whether he is recalled and who might take his place.

However, "when it's all said and done, the county will have a balanced budget," Callaway said.

Costs in this year's budget include 3.5 percent raises for county employees and elected officials, funding for office remodeling and new furniture, increased premiums for workers' compensation insurance and $58,000 to hold the county's part of the Oct. 7 recall election.

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