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Public can give input on next year's county budget on June 18

The Board of Supervisors has set a date of June 18 to begin public hearings on its proposed $475 million budget, which is up from $460 million last year, a 3 percent increase.

Preferring to save their comments for the hearings, supervisors listened quietly as Assistant County Administrator Gail Wilcox outlined the proposal.

Wilcox and Administrative Officer David Edge have cautioned supervisors that difficult financial days lie ahead.

Because of a slump in the housing market, property tax revenues are down, as are building fees from building permits.

Additionally, state and federal funding is has either disappeared or is in flux.

Edge offered optimism on the latest bit of bad news to hit the supervisors’ pocketbooks, an announcement last week that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger plans to hold back $1.1 million in state funds targeted for open space.

The money usually comes to counties from the state to make up for funds counties lose for implementing the Williamson Act.

Under the Williamson Act, landowners agree to not develop agricultural land in exchange for tax breaks over time.

Loss of the money “may force some agriculturalists to sell their land to developers,” according to a press release from the county Farm Bureau.

But Edge told supervisors that the state regularly threatens to withhold the Williamson act money, only to reinstate it. “We expect that money to remain in the budget,” Edge said.

-Bob Cuddy

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