Contra Costa Supervisors examine $3.5 billion 2018-19 budget

In era of federal funding uncertainty

By Daniel Borsuk

Contra Costa County Supervisors are poised to approve on May 8 a $3.5 billion 2018-19 budget realizing that during the upcoming budget year there is the likelihood significant funding cuts out of Washington might especially hit human services programs.

“The current administration in Washington is likely to reduce funding to states and counties,” county administrator David Twa warned supervisors at Tuesday’s board budget hearing.

Even with that caution, supervisors did not blink an eye and proceeded to listen to six budget presentations from department chiefs about what is in store for the upcoming 2018-2019 fiscal year.  Supervisors did not comment about the prospects of federal or state cuts next fiscal year at the hearing, but neither did any of the meager number of persons who showed up to speak about the proposed 2018-19 spending plan.

The Employment & Human Services Department is subject to perhaps the most significant funding cuts from Washington, EHSD Director Kathy Gallagher told supervisors.  Since 2017, funding for the department’s CalFresh and CalWorks programs that deliver food and job training for 65,000 residents has had federal funding trimmed from $101.5 million in 2016 to $90.4 million to 2018.  More cuts are expected for the two programs in the upcoming 2018-19 fiscal year, she said.

Gallagher painted a bleak federal funding fiscal picture showing a watch list of human service programs that could potentially be hit with steep federal funding cuts.  Some of those programs include Medicaid, Community Service Block Grants, Child Welfare Services, and the Older American Act, which includes Meals on Wheels.

Federal funding uncertainty also hovers over County Health Services, but not as severely as what EHSD faces, Contra Costa County Health Director Anna M. Roth told supervisors, in presenting her department’s proposed $1.8 billion budget for 2018-19.  Next year’s budget includes $100 million in general funds.

Roth noted that expansion of the Contra Costa Health Plan with more than 200,000 members provides the county financial support, especially when there is financial uncertainty coming out of Washington.

Addressing only the $241,271,160 in general funds proposed for 2018-19, Contra Costa Undersheriff Michael Casten, who filled in for Sheriff David O. Livingston who was out of town, said a $5.6 million vacancy factor makes it “a very difficult for the Office of the Sheriff-Coroner to operate”.

Casten said the funding deficit means for 2018019 the Sheriff-Coroner will not fill 10 deputy sheriff slots worth $2.6 million, three mental health evaluation team deputies openings worth a combined $781,000, 7 patrol deputies worth $1.82 million and six sergeants worth $1.77 million.  The Sheriff-Coroner’s request for 15 recruit positions valued at $1.21 million was approved for the upcoming fiscal year.

For Diana Becton, the Interim Contra Costa County District Attorney appointed by the board of supervisors last year who is up for election June 5, budget priorities for 2018-19 include enforcement of Proposition 64 (2016 voter approval for the legalization of the sale of marijuana in California), hiring of additional clerical staff, the implementation of a case management system and pay parity.

For 2018-19, Becton wants to add 14 full-time staff worth $1 million.  Those positions include five mainline prosecution assistant district attorneys, five mainline prosecution clerks, two senior inspectors and one forensic accountant.

District attorney Becton wants to also distribute resources for bail reform, the East County Anti-Violence Coalition, the West County Anti-Violence Coalition, the Safe Streets Task Force and anti-truancy initiatives.

Public Defender Robin Lipetzky plans to hire 8 staff members to her department next fiscal year.  She plans to hire two attorneys, one investigator, pretrial attorneys, and clerical staff.  A new juvenile office in Walnut Creek will open in the next month, she informed supervisors.  Last year the public defender handled 501 juvenile cases.  Her department last year also handled 3,545 felony cases.

For 2018-19, Contra Costa Public Works will be busy filling 15 positions, Brian Balbas, Public Works Director said.  The department will need the additional staff as Balbas needs more staff to oversee a big increase in capital improvement projects, including the construction of a new $110 million county administration building and emergency communication center.

New West County Health Center Expansion Project Approved

On a consent item, supervisors awarded a $12.45 million design-build contract to C. Overaa & Co. for the design and construction of the West County Health Center Expansion Project at 13585 San Pablo Ave., in San Pablo.

When the project is completed, the new two-story, 20,000 square foot building will house the Behavioral Health Department, which will be relocated from a leased building.  The new building will qualify for a LEED Silver rating from the Green Building Council.

Other construction firms competing for the design-build contract were Vila Construction and Boldt Co.

College District – Sheriff-Coroner Contract OK’d

Supervisors also approved the $497,250 contract between the Sheriff-Coroner and Contra Costa Community College District to provide educational course construction at the Law Enforcement Training Center at Los Medanos College for the period July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019.

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