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Ventura County adopts a cautious budget

Supervisors approve a spending plan with few additional outlays but a $10-million boost to reserve funds.

June 20, 2007|Catherine Saillant | Times Staff Writer

Ventura County supervisors have adopted a cautious $1.6-billion budget that holds the line on program growth in the upcoming fiscal year while stashing millions more into its growing reserves.

Adopted late Monday, the spending plan represents a 4.5% increase over last year's budget. The dollars over which supervisors have greatest discretion, the general fund, grew by 4.4% to $875,000.

The generally healthy increase in revenues and tax receipts allowed supervisors to add $400,000 in spending above that recommended by County Executive Officer Johnny Johnston.

In unanimous votes, the board agreed to add a budget analyst to the Fire Department; two social workers to a foster-youth program; a specialist in dealing with methamphetamine addiction who will join the Behavioral Health Department; and a code enforcement officer for the planning department.

But they turned down requests for $4.5 million in additional funding made by Sheriff Bob Brooks and Dist. Atty. Gregory Totten, as well as pleas from other department managers.

Johnston said he is conducting an efficiency study of those departments, with results expected in the fall. The supervisors said they didn't want to approve additional dollars until they have the information in hand.

The budget didn't sit well with a group of county employees who accused supervisors of shortchanging salary increases in favor of building a reserve fund.

The adopted budget adds $10 million to reserves, putting the county just over half of its 15% rainy-day fund goal. Employees, who are negotiating a new labor contract, said savings were sufficient.

"We're asking for maybe a slower pace for getting to that 15% so that more money can go toward salary increases," Jeannette Sanchez-Placios, a spokeswoman for Service Employees International Union Local 721, said Tuesday.

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