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Alameda County, CA March 5, 2002 Election
Smart Voter

Daysog's reponse to Green Party question on fiscal and budgetary decision-making

By Tony Daysog

Candidate for Supervisor; County of Alameda; District 3

This information is provided by the candidate
Daysog's reponse to Green Party question on fiscal and budgetary decision-making
1. The estimated state budget deficit is sure to bind county supervisors from adequately addressing the human needs of county residents. In fact, cuts in human services are widely anticipated. How will you prioritize which county services to fully fund (at current service levels) and which programs to cut?

ANSWER: On an annual basis in inflation-adjusted dollars since FY1997-1998, Alameda County's budget has grown by 7% to what it is today (FY2001-2002), $1.8 billion. At the same time, Alameda County needs for services have exceeded each budget, forcing the County Administrative Office (CAO) to makes cuts within the budget and to make corresponding shifts from one program to another, in order to balance each budget. In the last three fiscal years, a good economy spared the CAO from making deep cuts within the budget, unlike in the early to mid 1990s during the deep recession. In recent years, the CAO has relied primarily on savings generated by Departments through efficient use of resources and staffing, as opposed to wholesale cuts in programs and Departments.

With the recession and the additional impacts of September 11, the economy has made a turn for the worse, forcing a possible return by the CAO and the Board of Supervisors (BOD) to the practice of the early to mid 1990s of making substantial cuts of and within programs. In considering budget scenarios and priorities, it is too simplistic to say that, for example, all programs, services and capital improvements will shrink in equal proportions. There are many programs, which are already at a point of maximum strain, and there are many other programs that cannot be reduced due the fact that federal and state governments maintain a standard of service which the County cannot go below. To do so risks losing out altogether on needed funds. For example: several years ago federal and state officials determined that the Alameda County Medical Center's food and medical records systems were below standard, and required the County to fix these problems with speedy dispatch or else risk losing $160 million in Medi-Cal and Medicare reimbursements, which would have effectively closed the Alameda County Medical Center.

In considering the budget, keep in mind that most if not all social and health services of the County operate at a deficit both in years of economic expansion and recession. In other words, the amount of dollars coming from federal and state sources never cover the full cost of the service, requiring the County to fill in the gaps. Of the $1.8 billion FY2001-2002 budget, for example, 87% of the funds are federal and state pass-through funds (i.e. Food Stamps, TANF-CalWORKS, etc.). At $565 million, Public Assistance represents about 32% of the overall County budget. Federal and State sources provide $508 million into the Public Assistance portion of the budget, with the County coming up with the remainder, or $57 million for FY2001-2002. The County faced a similar situation in the late 1990 for Public Assistance and other budget items in the late 1990s, when the economy was flush.

Thus, the worsening economic situation will challenge to the fullest the BOD and CAO's commitment to a "value-based budget", in which certain principles are declared and budget commitments are made toward fulfilling these principles. I am committed to the county's "value-based budget" approach, but, if the situation arises, I will not make cuts on an equal proportional basis for the reasons described above. My priority: services for children and the elderly will be my highest priority, especially as these service relate to food nutrition, health and affordable housing. After children and the elderly, I will prioritize services for persons with disabilities, especially those people living with HIV-AIDS, but also people with physical disabilities who depend on county services. Children, the elderly, and people with disabilities represent the most vulnerable of the vulnerable population served by the County.

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