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Sonoma County supervisors defend $1.3 billion budget as 'cautious' document

Sonoma County supervisors Tuesday adopted a $1.3 billion budget that boosts spending with federal and state money but holds the line on most county funded services.

Supervisors said the approach showed fiscal restraint, with several calling it a "cautious" budget coming out of the multimillion-dollar deficits and extensive program and personnel cuts of the past three years.

"It's been a bumpy, bumpy ride," said board Chairwoman Shirlee Zane.

The spending plan, which takes effect July 1, does little to restore cuts since 2009, while projecting a slow rebound in local tax revenue. Property tax, the county's main source of discretionary money, is projected to be flat, with sales tax revenue set to grow by 3 percent over the current year.

"It's a cautious budget, but appropriate at this time," said Supervisor David Rabbitt.

The budget also reflects the continued rise in county salary and pension costs, an issue supervisors acknowledged they need to tackle.

"We're not going to get out of this without tackling that issue," said Supervisor Mike McGuire.

The overall budget, including federal and state funding and fee-supported spending, is up about 7.4 percent from the current year. The increase includes about $26 million in federal grants for the expansion of Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport and $31 million in funds connected to a shift in human service programs to the county.

The $383.9 million general fund, the main source for public safety and administrative departments, is down just under 1 percent from the current year. The flat spending resulted in a 5 percent to 8 percent general fund cut for most departments, totaling about $7 million, administrators said.

The impacts include deferred park and road maintenance, a drop in farm-related inspections and a decline in low-income housing funds, partly a by-product of the state-ordered end to redevelopment.


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