RANDALL BENTON / Bee file, 2011

Brad Hudson, hired last year as Sacramento County executive, is preparing his first budget since taking the job.

Employee costs could consume Sacramento County revenue increase

Published: Wednesday, Jun. 5, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3B
Last Modified: Wednesday, Jun. 5, 2013 - 9:24 am

Sacramento County expects higher sales and property tax revenue in the coming fiscal year, but pension costs and salary increases could consume those new dollars, according to a new budget plan.

County Executive Brad Hudson does not expect any layoffs or significant loss of services. But he also doesn't expect much restoration of services ranging from probation to criminal prosecution that were slashed during the recession.

"It's a very tight budget," said Hudson, who presented county supervisors with his spending proposal this week.

Supervisors will begin discussing the proposed $3.5 billion budget at hearings Monday and are expected to conclude by Thursday with an approved budget.

The county receives more than 40 percent of its overall revenues from state and federal sources.

Among its own collections, the county expects property taxes to increase for the first time since 2008-09 and sales taxes to rise for the third straight year as the economy improves. Hudson's budget projects a 5 percent increase in sales tax revenue and 2 percent increase in property tax revenue.

Other costs will offset those gains, including pension expenses, which are expected to increase by $25 million next year, Hudson said. The increase is the result of investment losses during the recession, he said.

The county has been forced to make budget cuts for the last five years. By the measure of overall spending, the proposed budget would mark the sixth straight year of cuts, with a 1 percent reduction.

The Sheriff's Department is facing a $15 million shortfall between its appropriation and what Sheriff Scott Jones says he needs to maintain services.

Hudson lays the blame for the department's financial problems on a previously negotiated salary increase for deputies that will cost the county $10.7 million and the loss of a federal $8.2 million grant.

Hudson said he thinks it possible for Jones to absorb the funding shortage in a $260 million budget without laying off deputies or other employees. Hudson has recommended eliminating almost 70 vacant positions to save $4.5 million.

Jones was out of town Tuesday and unavailable for comment. He is expected to present his budget solutions to supervisors on Monday.

The board will start off budget hearings with proposals by three of the county's law enforcement departments – district attorney, probation and sheriff. Supervisors have made those budgets a priority in past budget negotiations, working to find additional money for law enforcement.

The District Attorney's Office expects a funding shortage of $1.9 million in its proposed budget, said Chief Deputy District Attorney Cindy Besemer. She said the office will avoid layoffs by delaying equipment purchases, not filling vacancies and other measures.

The Probation Department expects to receive $9 million more in funding next year due to increases in three state revenue sources, Hudson said.

While most of the increase will pay for salaries and pension costs, the department will also spend $1 million on drug treatment for offenders released from state prison, Hudson said.

Hudson and other county officials have criticized the state for not providing enough money to handle lower-level offenders released from state prison into supervision by county probation officers.

They also believe the state has not given counties enough money to house inmates that previously were sentenced to state prisons.

Call The Bee's Brad Branan, (916) 321-1065. Follow him on Twitter @bradb_at_sacbee.

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