Supervisor Paul Biane

Point of View

Supervisor Paul Biane
Posted: 01/28/2010 05:56:51 PM PST

Imagine this – you run a nonprofit business that helps a lot of people. Each year, your budget shrinks, but demand for your services increases, forcing you to dip into your bank account to keep things running.

Meanwhile, your personal expenses steadily increase, yet you still have to run the nonprofit to continue providing people with services they need.

California’s most populous counties – including the County of San Bernardino – find themselves in a similar situation with the numerous state and federal social service programs counties are required to administer.

Since 2004, the state’s largest counties have seen their financial support for state and federal programs such as Child Welfare, Medi-Cal, In Home Supportive Services and others increase about 14 percent. At the same time, state and federal funding for the programs has dipped or flattened in spite of rising demand.

And this lopsided funding situation shows no signs of abating.

According to a study released Tuesday by the Urban Counties Caucus, which represents the state’s 12 most populous counties, the financial contribution from counties for state and federal social service programs is increasing about 5.7 percent annually while state and federal support is growing at an anemic rate of about 2.8 percent.

This ongoing funding pattern cannot continue without seriously jeopardizing needed services and the fiscal wellbeing of the state’s largest counties, which are already struggling to compensate for sharp declines in property and sales tax revenues as well as state takeaways of local funds.

In response to the weakening economy, my colleagues and I on the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors took steps to prioritize funding and imposed cost-saving measures to deal with declining revenues. Last year, with the aid of salary concessions made by county employees, the Board was able to mitigate a $61million budget hole.

At the same time, San Bernardino County continued providing the same level of county services such as law enforcement, fire protection, public records retention, solid waste disposal and more.

Counties want to be good partners with the state and federal governments in administering critical social service programs to those in need, but we cannot continue subsidizing them without putting our budgets and our own vital local services in peril.

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