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County OKs Use of Reserves to Avert Cuts

About $186 million will be applied to the budget, leaving only $22 million in the contingency fund.

September 17, 2003|Daren Briscoe | Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to spend all but $22.5 million of the county's reserves to avoid further service cuts that would otherwise be required by state budget reductions.

The vote authorized $186 million in reserve spending to reconcile the county's budget, which was approved in June, with the state budget that Gov. Gray Davis signed Aug. 2.

According to David Janssen, the county's chief administrative officer, the money would help the county cover a one-time, $160-million loss resulting from the state's decision not to increase vehicle license fees until November.

Another $10.5 million of the surplus will be spent to pay the county's share of a federal penalty assessed against the state for failure to automate the child-support system.

The state's appropriation of some trial court fees that the county now collects will cost another $10 million.

Janssen praised the county's efforts to minimize the pain for county residents from state reductions totaling $273 million in 2003-04, but warned that more cuts could be in store.

"They've used, as far as we can tell, just about every potential means of balancing the current budget," but without new taxes or revenue the state will face an $8-billion shortfall next year, Janssen said. "Counties are [going to be] extraordinarily vulnerable."

Previous expenditures and cuts to county services have prompted debate among the board's five members that has at times grown heated. But the dearth of available options was obvious, as the motion to spend 89% of the county's contingency fund passed unanimously without comment.

"We have a very difficult couple of years in front of us, but even with that, using reserves is preferable to going back into the general fund budget and making additional cuts," Janssen said.

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