County budget promises pain

This time last year, the leaders of more than two dozen groups that provide services to 11,000 needy residents of Sonoma County were holding their breath.

Under a proposed county budget, they faced elimination of nearly $600,000 handed out by the county's Human Services Commission to support their work.

Relief came through one-time federal stimulus money that restored the commission's funding.

But this year that funding and the commission itself again are on the line, one of many controversial belt-tightening proposals aimed to help fill a $42.8 million gap in the county's 2011-2012 budget.

"It's devastating," said Nick Baker, program director at Santa Rosa's Homeless Service Center, the Catholic Charities-run operation that is one of many local social welfare programs supported partly by county money.

The Board of Supervisors is set to decide the fate of the Human Services Commission and numerous other county programs in budget hearings starting Monday.

For the first time in three years of declining county spending, some of the deepest cuts supervisors will consider are to public safety and justice programs, which account for more than half of the projected $379 million general fund. It is the main pot of discretionary money within the proposed $1.2 billion overall budget.

Programs set for elimination include:

Two Sheriff's Office teams, the bomb unit and a team dealing with community crime issues.

The Sierra Youth Center, a probation facility for girls.

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