Preliminary budget for county OK'd

June 25, 2003 12:00 am

By ABBY SOUZA

Considering the many cuts in the proposed 2003-04 budget that Tuolumne County supervisors faced yesterday, their board chairman came prepared.

Mark Thornton carried a sign bearing the word "whining," with a big red line through it.

The budget, prepared by County Administrator C. Brent Wallace, suggests six layoffs, closing two library branches and cutting funds for several county projects.

The layoffs include a literacy assistant at a county library, a building maintenance worker, a deputy probation officer, a technician in the assessor's office, a global-information-systems technician and a relief building inspector.

The state, with a projected $38 billion deficit, wants to cut funds that were once given to counties. If the state budget passes, the lack of revenue from vehicle license fees alone will cost Tuolumne County at least $672,000.

State legislators missed the constitutionally mandated June 15 deadline for passing the budget — a situation not uncommon in California, where budget debates can stretch out for weeks, or even months.

Many local agencies are taking a wait-and-see attitude with their budgets, and bracing for the worst.

The Tuolumne County supervisors unanimously voted yesterday to accept the preliminary budget, but not without saying they might ask for changes when the final budget is up for approval in August.

"I reserve the right to change my mind," Thornton said. "Hourly."

The board heard from several county staff members who were unhappy with the cuts made to their departments.

Tuolumne County Sheriff Dick Rogers, while acknowledging Thornton's anti-whining sign, said he is worried about the two vacant jail deputy positions facing the ax in the preliminary budget. This cut would save the county $89,609, but cost the county a lot more in the long run, the sheriff said.

"I can not afford to have these positions cut," Rogers said.