Tuolumne County officials have delayed a public hearing on the proposed operating budget for the current fiscal year until next Tuesday, Aug. 20.

The county Board of Supervisors was scheduled to provide direction on ways to cut spending at a special meeting on Tuesday this week, but County Administrator Tracie Riggs explained on Monday that she and her staff need more time to prepare a proposal.

“We owe it to our staff and community to take our time and do it right,” she said. “This is obviously something we don’t want to rush through.”

County officials gave presentations at special meetings last week about services the community would lose if funding for their departments was scaled back to only cover those that are mandated by the state.

Riggs said there wasn’t enough time since the meetings last week for her to meet with the employees whose jobs could be affected by her proposal for a balanced budget before she unveils it to the board and public.

There were several people over the weekend trying to organize support for both the Animal Control and Recreation departments at the meeting on Tuesday.

Most departments are facing cuts as part of an ongoing process to restructure the county government due to a projected $3.7 million deficit in the General Fund for the current fiscal year that started on July 1 and runs through June 30.

County officials have largely blamed more mandates and reduced funding at the state and federal levels.

Riggs has eyed an additional $2.3 million in savings from the budget to prepare for costs that are anticipated in the next year, including at least $1 million in additional contributions toward employee pensions and at least $1 million to operate the new, larger county jail when it opens.

Animal Control officials reported last week that cutting the budget to only the services required by the state would be “unacceptable” because it would mean that stray animals would be euthanized three days after being impounded.

Recreation officials also said that most fees for programs and facilities like community pools and parks would have to be increased, while some others would be cut entirely.

A special meeting will still be held at 9 a.m. on Tuesday for the board to engage in labor negotiations behind closed doors, which is allowed by state law for matters pertaining to personnel decisions.

Riggs said she could not comment on specifics regarding the negotiations because they will be done in closed session, but it will be for bargaining with all of the county’s employee unions.

The rescheduled hearing about the budget is planned for 9 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 20, in the board’s chambers on the fourth floor of the County Administration Center at 2 S. Green St., Sonora.

Contact Alex MacLean at amaclean@uniondemocrat.com or (209) 588-4530.

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