Bolstered by an 8.5 percent jump in property taxes from the booming real estate market, Los Angeles County officials on Monday unveiled a $19.4 billion budget that adds nearly 3,000 positions and spends nearly $800 million on capital projects.

County Administrative Officer David Janssen said that the budget would increase funding and staffing in four key areas: public safety, health care, children's programs and homeless services.

"We have a strong, stable local economy, but we are still recovering from having to make critical service cuts in recent years, including closing jails and not hiring new deputies," Janssen said.

The proposed budget, which must be approved by county supervisors before the new fiscal year starts on July 1, would add 2,948 positions. That 3 percent boost would bring the total county payroll to 98,623 and further cement the county government's status as the region's top employer.

Among the largest gainers are the health services department, with 829 additional positions budgeted, and the probation department, with 270 additional staff.

The budget also includes $782 million for capital projects, including the construction of a countywide data center, a sheriff station in Athens and four new or replacement libraries.

These funding boosts are made possible by the anticipated collection of $392 million in property taxes, an 18 percent increase from the current fiscal year. Besides strong growth in property taxes generated from the hot real estate market, Janssen said revenues have been boosted by state Proposition 1A. That measure passed two years ago ended the state's power to transfer property taxes to the state's general fund.

Janssen cautioned that the county's strong revenue growth could slow substantially in future years as the housing resale market cools. Property taxes account for 21 percent of the county's overall revenue and 65 percent of locally-generated taxes.

The total budget is actually $500 million less than the current $19.9 billion budget; Janssen explained that's due to higher expenditures in certain areas in the current fiscal year ending June 30.

This includes a drop of $81 million as construction nears completion on the replacement County-USC Medical Center, which is due to open in spring 2007. It also reflects a $103 million reduction in welfare assistance, due to some welfare recipients finding jobs and others no longer eligible for assistance under the welfare-to-work program enacted during the Clinton Administration.

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