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Big cuts in store for county

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While the economy continues its slump, SLO County’s government faces deep, long-term cuts just to keep the county afloat, officials were told this week. Under current economic realities, reductions in public services are inevitable. County Administrative Officer David Edge was miserably to the point when he laid out the forecast to SLO County Supervisors.

The 2009-10 budget is projected to be about $21 million in the red. By 2013-14 the deficit is expected to balloon to $65 million.

“The county as an organization is too large for the financial future that we see for at least the next five or 10 years,” Edge said.

The Administrative Office projected that revenues will remain stagnant but salaries, benefits, and inflationary costs will continue to rise and widen the budgetary gap. Revenues next year are expected to drop 1.2 percent while salary costs will probably increase 6 percent.

To close the gap the county will have to use just about every financial trick available. Massive layoffs seem to be a certainty and very likely will be accompanied by such other tactics of last resort as tax increases.

In just the next fiscal year the county could be forced to cut as many as 125 staff positions. In total about 490 positions— about 20 percent of the total permanent workforce—must be cut in the next few years, officials said.

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