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In tough times, O.C. asked to slash $1.2 billion from budget

June 9, 2009 |  2:18 pm

Reeling from a plunge in sales and property tax revenue, Orange County officials today began the process of slashing as much as $1.2 billion from the county budget -- a potential loss of 798 jobs -- for the coming fiscal year.

In the face of sharp declines in state funds and increasing retirement costs amid concern that local economic woes have yet to hit bottom, county supervisors are trying to cobble together a $5.5-billion budget -- a decrease of about 18% from last year.

Most of the cuts under review today are coming from public safety.

Orange County's budget deliberations come at a time when counties throughout Southern California are facing nearly identical fiscal challenges, said Thomas Mauk, Orange County’s chief executive officer.

The fiscal picture? In a word, "dismal," Mauk told district supervisors.

Department heads today began making presentations to supervisors about the impact the proposed cuts would have on their departments. The district attorney's office was up first.

Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas began by showing supervisors a slide labeled "public safety jeopardized" and then followed with another showing players missing from a baseball diamond -- an analogy, he said, for cutting positions from the department.

Rackauckas pushed on, showing a screen shot from the television show "I Love Lucy" in which Lucy is befuddled by too many candies coming at her on a conveyor belt. It was an example, he said, of the increased case loads that might overwhelm the district attorney's office.

Supervisors voted to reduce the district attorney's budget by about $8 million, or about $2 million less than the amount recommended by Mauk.

The final budget is expected to be adopted June 23.

Supervisors will hear from other public safety departments later today, including the offices of the sheriff, probation and public defender.

-- My-Thuan Tran in Santa Ana

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