The Alameda County Board of Supervisors approved a $3 billion budget for the new fiscal year that began Friday that includes modest funding increases to community service providers and expands resources for affordable housing.
Board members said the budget that they approved last week allows the county to continue building its financial reserves and is balanced by closing a $72.2 million funding gap without significant program reductions or layoffs to its 9,641 full-time employees.
County officials said that while this year's funding gap is smaller than those recorded during and just after the recent economic downturn, when shortfalls routinely topped $100 million, its size is daunting given the relatively positive conditions in which growth in the national and local economies is providing some boost to county revenues.
They said the county's challenge of keeping its finances in balance isn't likely to decrease in the coming years because a growing wage gap is keeping a large number of residents reliant on government services and there are many forecasts that suggest the economy could fall back into recession in the near future.
The budget renews the county's commitment to helping residents squeezed by the region's soaring housing costs, supervisors said.
Although cuts to federal housing programs mean less funding available for the county to meet community needs, board members said the county is continuing to spend more than $100 million annually in housing programs across various agencies and departments.
They said they also have committed to spend $5 million to $7.5 million a year of their limited discretionary funding on affordable housing programs in the county.
In addition, the board voted to place a measure on the November ballot asking voters to approve up to $580 million in general obligation bonds to support affordable housing and prevent displacement of vulnerable populations, including low-income residents, seniors and the disabled.
The board also declared a housing state of emergency in the county and directed county departments to pursue several strategies to ease the problem of housing displacement and homelessness.
The county is closing its funding gap through a combination of spending reductions, revenue increases and one-time strategic changes such as efficiency measures.