Sonoma County supervisors adopt $1.37 billion budget in record time

Sonoma County supervisors made quick work of their budget discussions Monday, agreeing in just four hours on a $1.37 billion spending plan that increases staffing for public safety, health and human service divisions and maintains funding for road repairs while seeking to hold down expenses in most other programs.

The morning hearing wrapped up an annual process in record time, officials said, providing a stark contrast to past years in the aftermath of the recession, when county budget hearings at times stretched over two weeks, with bruising deficit-driven debates to slash or save programs and jobs.

Now, five years after the historic economic downturn, the county's slow return to fiscal health — fueled largely by the rebound in local tax revenue and stabilized state and federal funding — helped make Monday's discussion mostly routine.

"We really lived and died with this budget throughout the year," said Board of Supervisors Chairman David Rabbitt. "Everything that was brought forward today, there were no surprises."

The board discussion started at 8:30 a.m. and was over before 12:30 p.m. One long-time county administrator said he could not recall a quicker budget adoption in at least two decades.

The board is set to formalize its unanimous vote Tuesday in a regular meeting beginning at 11 a.m.

The 2013-2014 budget is the first in five years to project an increase in discretionary spending, represented by the $398 million general fund, which supports largely public safety, administrative and fiscal departments.

The proposed general fund, supported mostly by local tax dollars, is up about 1 percent over actual spending in the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. The overall budget, including state and federal dollars, projects a 6 percent increase over current year spending and expands the county workforce by 4.7 percent, to 3,905 employees.

The new spending plan will maintain the county's additional contribution to road repairs this fiscal year, allocating a $16 million mix of general fund and one-time dollars to support upgrades of the crumbling county road network, ranked as one of the worst in the Bay Area.

All five supervisors chimed in with their support for the allocation, a signal of how high-profile the county's years-long struggle with road maintenance has become.

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