Contra Costa County Administrator Proposes Budget Cuts for County Health Department
Contra Costa County Administrator John Sweeten on Tuesday proposed asking county health and social services departments to reduce expenditures by $4 million to offset part of the county's contribution to the cost of benefits for public safety workers and retirees, the Contra Costa Times reports. Sweeten said the Sheriff's Office and Probation Department do not have adequate funds to pay the full cost of benefits.
County Health Services Department Director William Walker said that it is not fair for his department to be required to subsidize benefits costs for public safety workers. Walker said that the Sheriff's Office and Probation Department have "gone to a deficit, but we shouldn't be required to absorb it."
Walker on Tuesday presented a plan for spending reductions that would eliminate a pediatric care unit, a nurse hotline and tuberculosis prevention programs. The county health department has been asked to reduce spending by $8.1 million in the county budget for the next fiscal year.
According to the Times, the county Employment and Human Services Department also faces spending reductions, although the exact amount will not be known until the budget is complete.
The county budget deficit currently is estimated at $55 million for FY 2005-2006. County supervisors this week are conducting workshops in an effort to reach consensus on a final budget before the July 1 deadline.
Sweeten said, "We're seeing that the growth of costs in safety retirement really do have an impact." He said that the preliminary spending plan seeks to spread cost increases equally among departments. He noted that the draft budget calls on the Sheriff's Office to lose a larger percentage of its total revenue than the county's health and social service departments.
Sweeten said he used a measurement called "total spending authority," which accounts for state and federal revenues to determine revenue loss. According to the Times, the measurement "confused several supervisors because board budget talks in past years have focused on net county costs."
County Supervisor Gayle Uilkema said, "It's pretty obvious we're not wild to get rid of anything. Our hand is being forced" (Felsenfeld, Contra Costa Times, 4/20).