Santa Barbara County’s proposed 2013-2014 budget — an $844.5 million operating plan — was released last week. The Board of Supervisors will deliberate over the document in June. There is $8.3 million in service-level reductions built into the proposed budget. By 2014-2015, the deficit will jump to $13.7 million. Staffing levels this coming fiscal year are supposed to drop by 32.5 positions. While the number of positions in the county has dropped by nearly 600 since 2007-2008, the average cost per employee has increased each year.
This coming fiscal year, public safety positions cost an average of $153,200 per employee, while non–public safety employees average $114,300 each. This year, the biggest proposed reductions come in the Public Health Department, which is looking at $2.4 million in service-level cuts. Also on the chopping block are the Probation Department’s gang-intervention program, seven custody deputy staffers at the Sheriff’s Department, along with a reduction in the Aviation Unit’s budget.
With this budget, CEO Chandra Wallar explained, “We have become an organization poised to navigate toward a stable future with a sustainable level of service.” Just two budget cycles ago, the county was dealing with a $72 million budget deficit, by far the largest in recent memory. Last year’s budget deficit was $15 million. Tuesday, county staff told the board the county’s general fund had a projected net positive variance of $5.5 million at the end of March, an improvement of the second-quarter estimate of just $80,000.