Tuolumne budget cuts on table

Chris Caskey, The Union Democrat

Labor concessions, service reductions and cutting positions all appear to be on the table as Tuolumne County leaders head into what the chief administrator is predicting to be the last of a string of tough budget years.

County Administrator Craig Pedro at Tuesday's county Board of Supervisors meeting outlined budget cutting strategies his office and department heads could take as they compile the 2013-14 budget in the coming months.

Budget projections show the county will likely face a $3 million-plus shortfall between revenues and spending in the years ahead.

While no decisions or policies were set Tuesday, Pedro indicated tough choices are on the near horizon.

"It's not so slick that it's just this easy formula," he said.

Money-saving options include extending temporary cuts and furlough days as new employee union contracts are negotiated. With shrinking revenues, county employees agreed to between 7 and 14.5 percent in labor concessions over recent years, including five to 15 furlough days a year and cuts to health, pensions and other benefits.

Also discussed was privatizing services currently provided by county government, including information technology, revenue recovery, public defender, library and recreation. Pedro said those are merely examples, and county officials will have to weigh whether privatizing in those areas would be cost effective.

He also said the county needs to review user fees and audit sales and lodging taxes.

Reductions to a county workforce that has already shrunk since the economy tanked in 2008 are on the table as well. He added that administrators will "retain as many positions as possible in order to minimize the impact."

Pedro said one more round of these tough decisions should set a "new normal" for the community and will bring predictability and sustainability to the county government. He also said it will put the board in a position as revenues grow again to plan and prioritize how and where to spend money.

The county typically has a preliminary budget completed in June.

The Union Democrat
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