County faces financial challenges

San Mateo County officials are struggling to cope with a $29.3 million state funding cut in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s May budget revision, on top of $4 million already figured into county spending reductions. The new round of cuts in state-funded local programs was described by veteran County Manager John Maltbie as “devastating.”

Anticipated Peninsula reductions would affect justice, health and human services, and child-welfare programs. Approximately 4,500 low-income children would lose MediCal health coverage for the uninsured; 650 unemployed residents would no longer qualify for CalWORKs job training and counseling; 263 blind, aged or disabled legal immigrants would be dropped from a financial assistance program; and 3,000 people receiving various forms of county financial aid would not get cost-of-living increases.

Peninsula criminal-justice programs now stand to lose $8 million from the governor’s budget revise, including elimination of the $5 million crime-prevention program aiding families whose members are stuck in a cycle of criminality. And mentally ill offender services also would lose $1 million.

Compounding the problem is that many of the newly uninsured will have no option except to crowd into the San Mateo Medical Center, which is already the largest single drain on the county budget. As the Peninsula’s only public hospital, the Medical Center is required by state law to treat every indigent patient seeking aid.

The Medical Center has current expenditures of $244.2 million and a staff of 1,350. It has been struggling to contain costs and is expected to save $7 million this year by eliminating 19 positions and keeping 70 more vacant. These steps have helped stabilize the county’s direct subsidization of the hospital at last year’s $72 million level.

However, the state’s newly reduced contribution to San Mateo County finances is only one skirmish in a multi-front budgetary war. The county has embarked on a five-year campaign to neutralize a deficit that is now estimated to reach $92.1 million by 2013 if major changes are not put into effect. The five-year plan adopted by the county in December includes caps on spending and using some reserve funds — which are still above $200 million.

Maltbie’s final budget presentation before his pending retirement as county manager demonstrates the fiscal tightrope that will be necessary. The proposal calls for spending $1.73 billion in 2008-09, which is $4 million below the current budget. It would cut $8 million in operational spending and eliminate 12 jobs. But balancing the budget would also require $26.4 million from the general-fund reserves.

Still, despite the tricky challenges looming ahead, San Mateo County is in relatively better financial shape than some other Bay Area counties that are drowning in red ink — especially from unfunded retiree obligations — and do not have hefty reserves to fall back on.

General OpinionOpinion

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Demonstrators commemorated the life of George Floyd and others killed by police outside S.F. City Hall on June 1, 2020.<ins></ins>
Chauvin verdict: SF reacts after jury finds ex-officer guilty on all charges

San Franciscans were relieved Tuesday after jurors found a former Minneapolis police… Continue reading

San Francisco Unified School District Board member Faauuga Moliga, right, pictured with Superintendent Vincent Matthews on the first day back to classrooms, will be board vice president for the remander of the 2121 term. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Faauuga Moliga named as school board vice president to replace Alison Collins

The San Francisco school board on Tuesday selected board member Fauuga Moliga… Continue reading

Legislation by Supervisor Rafael Mandelman would require The City to add enough new safe camping sites, such as this one at 180 Jones St. in the Tenderloin, to accomodate everyone living on the street. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
City would create sites for hundreds of tents under new homeless shelter proposal

Advocates say funding better spent on permanent housing

An instructor at Sava Pool teaches children drowning prevention techniques. (Jordi Molina/ Special to the S.F. Examiner)
Indoor city pools reopen for lap swimming and safety classes

Two of San Francisco’s indoor city pools reopened Tuesday, marking another step… Continue reading

A construction worker rides on top of materials being transported out of the Twin Peaks Tunnel as work continues at West Portal Station on Thursday, August 16, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFMTA’s poor track record on capital projects risks losing ‘public trust’

Supervisors say cost overruns and delays could jeapordize future ballot revenue measures

Most Read