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O.C. supervisors face tough budget vote

Some county programs may be cut, but others may grow. Proposals will be assessed in June.

May 22, 2007|Christian Berthelsen | Times Staff Writer

After several booming years of big tax revenues produced by Orange County's red-hot housing market, the slowing real estate business is forcing county supervisors to make tough choices in their spending plan for the coming year, according to county documents made public on Monday.

While overall spending on programs, services and projects is expected to increase 6.2% -- to $5.9 billion -- property tax revenue, which provides the bulk of the county's general fund money, is expected to grow less than 3%, sales tax revenue will grow only 2.5%, and vehicle license fees are expected to decline 1.6%.

As a result, some county programs may be on the chopping block in the new financial plan to be adopted next month.

County staff has recommended doing away with 16 counseling positions in the drug court program. Shifting the counselors to other county services, the staff report says, would save $1.3 million. The county may also cut off $3.5 million in annual supplemental funding for emergency medical services just agreed to in December. The money funds pediatric and adult trauma care, payments to doctors who provide emergency care and other emergency medical costs.

The cuts would be offset by the growth of spending on other programs.

The county may add 15 positions, at a cost of $1.12 million, for mental crisis-care nurses serving female inmates. It may also spend $1.4 million on an additional 31 positions for case workers in adult and child protective services. And the county chief executive is recommending $1.5 million in spending on county libraries to make bathrooms compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The Sheriff's Department is expected to get $1.5 million more to expand its DNA analysis service.

The county is expecting to spend $116 million on terminal and parking expansion at John Wayne Airport, and $44 million to increase capacity at two landfills. There's also $6.5 million for the first phase of construction on a facility that will provide crisis counseling to families at risk of losing children to child protective services.

County supervisors are scheduled to consider the proposals in June, with final adoption expected June 26.

christian.berthelsen@latimes.com

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