By Jennifer Grimes
Triplicate staff writer
As the new fiscal year begins next week, Del Norte County administrators expect the new budget will have a deficit of $350,000 and a carry-over deficit from this year of another $350,000.
County staffers who put the budget together were thanked profusely, however, by the County Board of Supervisors for their sacrifices and hard work.
The administrators managed to whittle the deficit from an expected $2.1 million to the curret $700,000.
"Thank you for the hours and hours of hard work, and I want the community to know you went well above-and-beyond the call of duty to get this done," said Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Chuck Blackburn.
That sentiment was echoed by all five supervisors as all five unanimously voted to approve the proposed budget.
Yet County Administrative Officer Jeannine Galatioto said the hard work is not done.
Though it is acceptable to vote in a proposed budget that's not balanced, it won't be legal to pass a final budget that still shows the $350,000 short fall.
Passing the proposed budget was a crucial step, however, because it allows the county and all of its department heads to start spending the 2002-2003 money for salaries, supplies and programs.
Galatioto and county auditor Christie Babich said they aren't sure yet how they will get rid of the remaining deficit.
A final budget does not need to be adopted until the state adopts its budget. It may take until August or beyond for the state to find ways to meets its $24 billion deficit. Whatever choices are made, they will likely affect several county services and programs negatively.
"I think we're in the eye of the storm. We still need to shave off that $350,000 and come August, I think we're going to be looking at some incredibly dire times," said Supervisor Martha McClure.
So far, 20 staff positions have been eliminated, all of which are currently vacant. Several county programs and services will also likely be diminished or cut.
"As a result, there's going to be less people doing more work," said Supervisor David Finigan.
The 5-percent salary cuts to all county employees over the past few months also helped decrease the deficit, Galatioto said, as did the efforts of all department heads to cut their budgets and spending beyond the bare bones necessary to keep them running.