10:00 PM PST on Saturday, February 6, 2010

By IMRAN GHORI
The Press-Enterprise

San Bernardino County is putting off its budget planning workshops for a month while it asks department heads to prepare for belt-tightening.

The Board of Supervisors had planned to begin its annual business plan meetings on Feb. 16 but they have been delayed until March 16, county spokesman David Wert said.

The change in schedule is due to a different approach county officials are taking this year, he said.

With the county projected to face a $90 million budget shortfall for the next fiscal year and sales and property taxes down, the county administration has asked department heads to give presentations on how their services could be affected by potential cuts, Wert said.

The business plan meetings are a precursor to preparation of the actual budget, allowing individual departments to let the Board of Supervisors know what they’re doing and what they’ll need for the next fiscal year. In the past, departments have been told not to hold back with budget requests so supervisors can understand their needs even if those increases are not granted.

Department heads are not being told not to ask for new programs but if they do they need to show how they can be paid for, Wert said.

“These workshops are going to focus more on how departments plan on living within their means,” he said.

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