State budget deal could save Peninsula programs

Despite Sunday’s announcement of a breakthrough in California’s record budget impasse, San Mateo County has spent $45 million of its rainy-day fund to cover the costs of programs normally funded by the state.

If a budget is not signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger soon, integral countywide programs such as health care and child care could be eliminated or scaled back, county officials said recently.

Because of the lack of a California budget thus far, state-funded programs run by the county have not received money since the start of the fiscal year July 1, County Manager John Maltbie said.

The county has covered the costs — already totaling $45 million — in the meantime by dipping into its rainy-day fund, Deputy County Manager Mary McMillan said.

The county has exhausted 25 percent of the total rainy-day fund it had before July, she said.

Most impacted would be the region’s most vulnerable residents — those who rely on county services — such as seniors, children and the developmentally disabled if a state budget is not signed, McMillan said.

“Going forward, we would have to take a hard look at the types of state programs … we are funding and make some decisions regarding what programs would have to be scaled back or eliminated,” Maltbie said.

The social ripple effects from closure of those programs would create hardships for families, interim Health System Chief Charlene Silva said. For instance, if child care programs close, parents who rely on those services may have to stay home from work, she said.

“It is very challenging in these economic times to provide the types of safety-net services that we do as the number of people depending on us is increasing and the resources are decreasing,” Silva said.

Cities do not have nearly as many state-funded programs, but are also being negatively impacted by the budget impasse in Sacramento.

“Indirectly is has an effect on us — it’s our citizens being affected” because they use these programs, said Peter Ingram, city manager of Redwood City.

In San Mateo, officials have identified $750,000 they have not received because of the impasse, including state grants for police officers, City Manager Susan Loftus said.

The city already faces $3 million to $4 million in cuts and would have to further rearrange funding if it wanted to keep the state-funded police officers by cutting elsewhere in the city, she said.

mrosenberg@sfexaminer.com

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