With an emphasis on cracking down on crime, Orange County officials unveiled a $6.2 billion budget proposal Wednesday for the coming fiscal year, a slight increase over the current year’s $6.1 billion spending plan.
The Public Defender’s Office is recommended to hire four more paralegals to handle evidence from body-worn police cameras. The sheriff would have four more deputies for patrolling; four more forensic scientists would be hired to analyze sexual assault kits, property crime DNA and DUI toxicology; and $2 million is budgeted for the project to overall jail video surveillance.
The biggest challenge for the coming fiscal year will be how much a shift in state spending on social services for the disabled and elderly will impact counties, officials said in a message accompanying the budget proposal.
The issue stems from the “proposed repeal of the Coordinated Care Initiative,” officials contend in the budget message, referring to the state’s proposed cutbacks in managed-care services for Medicare and MediCal recipients. Gov. Jerry Brown has said the state must prepare for a change in Medicare funding depending on efforts by Congress and the White House to repeal the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.
County officials say Brown’s plan would shift “In-Home Supportive Services” and “Maintenance of Effort” costs from the state to counties, and it could force Orange County to cough up about $38 million extra in this year’s budget.
State officials believe it may be more cost-effective to have counties handle in-home care for the indigent rather than placing them in facilities, said Lisa Bohan-Johnston, the county’s budget director. County officials will know more Thursday — when the state’s revised budget is released.
A major aim of this fiscal year’s budget is tackling the growing homeless population around the Santa Ana courthouse and along the Santa Ana riverbed.
The budget includes funding for the Courtyard Transitional Shelter, an old bus station in downtown Santa Ana that is used for temporary shelter, as well as the new year-round, full-services facility, Bridges at Kraemer Place, which is aimed at getting homeless people off the streets and into permanent housing. County officials are also aiming to work with leaders in all of the county’s 34 cities on the homeless problem.
If all goes as planned, the county will fund 20 extra positions in the budget compared with last year’s spending plan, Bohan-Johnston said. Officials expect more revenue from property taxes and from the Prop. 172 sales tax that primarily funds law enforcement, Bohan-Johnston said.
The county is expecting a 2.5 increase, or $7.6 million, over last fiscal year’s budget in Prop 172 revenue. Total funding for law enforcement is proposed at $313.4 million, with 80 percent going to the sheriff and the rest to the District Attorney’s Office.
But the county also has to budget for a $50 million bill due to the state to resolve a dispute over vehicle-license funding revenue. The county will make its final $55 million payment to the state in the FY 2018-19 budget.
The bill owed to the state has cramped plans to expand services and jobs as the economy continues to trend up, but local residents should not feel any decline in services, Bohan-Johnston.
“It’s been a challenge,” Bohan-Johnston said of the money owed to the state.
“We’re not funding all (budget increase requests) entirely so it has presented challenges,” Bohan-Johnston said.
— City News Service
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