Alameda County is in the same spot as a lot of other local governments this year, attempting to balance their budgets without much help from the state.
"Currently, we're using a Ouija board to figure this out," said Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty at a luncheon for business leaders at the in Pleasanton on Tuesday.
Alameda County is facing a $135 million shortfall in its $2.4 billion budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year, he said. And with the state looking for $15.4 billion to balance its own budget, that means more bad news for local governments.
Even so, Haggerty said the county is trying not to touch its $2 million reserve. Cuts likely will come from, among other things, public safety, health and social services — things people do not want to lose. There could be many layoffs in the coming years.
"The government is always last to lay off, but that has to happen at some point," Haggerty said, noting that he thinks 2012 and 2013 will be even worse.
"It's very painful."
Haggerty did say, however, that he would want to jump into the county's reserve budget if it meant saving public safety workers.
County officials will present their proposed budget to the Board of Supervisors on June 9. The board is expected to adopt it by June 24.
Haggerty also talked about plans to extend BART to Livermore and the recent petition to stop the commuter train from snaking through Livermore's downtown area.
An organization called Keep BART on 580 circulated a petition recently to stop current plans for the $4 billion transit project by putting the issue on the November ballot. The group has gathered about 7,200 signatures, Haggerty said.
The organization wants to put BART stations along Interstate 580, much like the Pleasanton and Dublin BART stations, but Haggerty said there has to be some room for compromise.
"You have to have stations within a half-mile of where people live so they'll ride — you have to have the ridership," he said. "By putting it downtown, you would achieve that."
However, he said he was open to looking at other options and perhaps finding an alternate route rather than going all the way into downtown. But countywide, he said, people want BART in Livermore.
The current option is to build a BART extension from I-580 through the Airway-Portola region to downtown Livermore and perhaps continue it to Vasco Road, where it would hook up to transportation hubs in eastern Contra Costa County.
"Then you have a whole network," Haggerty said, also noting that he would like to see a high-speed rail system go through the Altamont Pass area. That would piggyback on the already existing BART system.
"Perhaps the answer is at least building to Isabel (Avenue) and doing it in phases," he said.
Haggerty also talked about getting congestion off Interstates 680 and I-580 by widening Highway 84 to four lanes. The problem, however, is the state is broke.
"If we were to get it to four lanes, we're in a position to relieve I-580 and I-680 for 15 years," he said, noting that many people in the Tri-Valley would like to see other arterials widened before Highway 84.
When officials talked about this before, the Sierra Club opposed it and plans didn't go far. That likely would happen again, he said.
In related news, Haggerty said the county is about to embark on an intensive study of ways to relieve congestion on I-580 and I-680. As chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the supervisor said he would like to see people from the Tri-Valley area attend meetings on this issue.
Haggerty talked about an upgrade to Stanley Boulevard that he said was long overdue — new paving, about 3,000 new bushes and reconfigured bike lanes.
"It's one of the ugliest roads in California and yet it sits between two beautiful cities," he said. "We needed to upgrade that road."
He also talked about an I-680 toll lane that, despite a lot of criticism, is doing its job alleviating congestion.
"I do get emails from people saying it saves people a good 10 or 15 minutes per day."
Haggerty said he wants the poles gone and the power lines underground — all part of the plan.
He also referred to the repaving of westbound lanes of I-580 as a past-due project.
"We've been very insistent that this gets done quickly."