Contra Costa County Health Department Faces Power Bill Hike, Potential Budget Shortfall
Hit "hard" by California's energy crisis, Contra Costa County has had difficulty funding programs for sick people, seniors and low-income residents while also "keeping the lights on" in hospitals and health care facilities, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Based on current prices, the county's
Health Services Department likely will face a $1.3 million "jump" in its power bill this fiscal year, with an increase of $1.7 million next fiscal year, County Administrator Phil Batchelor told supervisors yesterday. The department has "already suffer[ed] fiscal woes" that could result in a $15 million budget shortfall in FY 2001-2002 -- a "money crunch" that "makes it harder" to light and heat health care facilities. To address the financial problem, Contra Costa County has initiated efforts to conserve energy, with supervisors voting unanimously last month to cut the county government's energy consumption by up to 10%. Under the conservation plan, crafted by Supervisor Mark DeSaulnier, the county would reduce energy use in all departments and offices by at least 8%, in an effort to cut overall electricity use by 10%. The plan would exempt hospitals, jails and juvenile halls. County officials plan to consult with unions about some provisions in the plan before presenting a final proposal to the Board of Supervisors by March 6 (Johnson, San Francisco Chronicle, 2/14).