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Local services threatened

Budget cuts could affect senior population

Posted: June 27, 2009 8:41 p.m.
Updated: June 28, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Despite the approval of Los Angeles County’s budget last week, officials are bracing for more fiscal bloodletting once the state resolves its own budgetary woes — and local social services are expected to suffer.

“In the short term we’re doing all right. It’s the long term we’re concerned about,” said Tony Bell, spokesman for county Supervisor Michael Antonovich.

Because the fiscal year begins July 1, all counties, cities and school districts in the state have to pass spending plans by June 30. Los Angeles County supervisors approved a $22.7 billion budget last week.

But with the California Legislature deadlocked over spending in the face of a multibillion-dollar shortfall, municipal governments can’t be sure of their funding.

If, as state Controller John Chiang has promised, Sacramento begins issuing IOUs, county social services will see a $665 million cut over the next three months, said Lori Glasgow, Antonovich’s budget deputy.

Without a new state budget, Chiang said he will have to start issuing IOUs Thursday.

Students expecting college grants, disabled people and low-income seniors may not get paid if that happens.

Counties that run social service programs, along with vendors who provide services to the state and counties, could also miss out on payments.

And California taxpayers would owe interest on the IOUs, Chiang said.

“This thing’s so fluid and changing,” Bell said. “There’s no concrete answers to what’s going to get cut and when.”

Seniors may be hard hit
Cuts could seriously affect Santa Clarita Valley’s senior population.

With a roughly $3 million annual operating budget, the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center receives most of its funding as a provision of the federal Older Americans Act, said Brad Berens, executive director of the center.

But the federal money is dispersed by the county.

In addition, state funding helps back the center’s adult day health care program, which would suffer under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposal to cut such funding to help close the budget deficit.

Of the 8,500 seniors the center services, Berens said about 3,000 are frail, primarily home-bound people.

If funding is lost for day health care, he said: “You’re looking at terrible, terrible situations for elderly (people) across the state.”

Berens said he has yet to hear from county officials what kind of budget cuts may be in store.

County officials are still waiting for a final state spending plan before they can answer his questions.

“I’m expecting it to be quite terrible,” he said. “If the state makes cuts to the budget, we lose matching federal money.”

The senior center ran out of funding for its eight social workers last December, Berens said, forcing him to cut two positions and use reserve funds to pay for the remaining six.

City helps out
The center got a shot in the arm from the city of Santa Clarita last Tuesday, when the City Council approved $50,000 for the center from its $1 million annual contingency fund.

The money will be used to support the senior center’s home-delivered meals program, Berens said.

“I’ve never seen a local municipality be so supportive,” he said.

“Compared to the rest of the county (senior centers), we’re faring better than most.”

Other impacts
County officials are also keeping a close eye on how the Newhall office of the Department of Community and Senior Services will be affected by likely budget cuts.

Located on Main Street, the office — formerly called the SCV Service Center — provides county information and support services and is home to nonprofit groups including Single Mothers’ Outreach and the Salvation Army.

“The center’s engaged in a lot of public/private partnerships ... that are very effective,” Bell said. “We want to preserve (its) vital functions.”
County budget cuts could also mean more fundraising is needed for the Samuel Dixon Family Health Centers Inc.

Headquartered in Val Verde, the center provides outpatient health care services and programs.

Of its roughly $1.8 million annual budget, about $80,000 comes from the county, finance director Richard Abruzzo said.

The lion’s share of the organization’s funding comes from community development block grants, as well as yearly fundraisers, he said.

“If (county) funding’s pulled, then we’ll have to rely more on public support,” Abruzzo said.

Unfunded mandates
Bell said the Board of Supervisors will ask county CEO William Fujioka this week for a full report on how the state’s proposed cuts will impact the county’s ability to deliver state-mandated social services.

The budget 2009-10 fiscal year budget that supervisors approved last week was nearly $500 million less than the current fiscal-year budget.

Most county departments made cuts of 2 percent to 7 percent for the 2009-10 fiscal year, which begins Wednesday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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