Recently the County’s “$40 million dollar budget deficit” has been referenced in the media. I want to take this opportunity to clarify what this number means, what it is a result of, and what the County is doing about it.
Unlike Sacramento or Washington, we cannot adopt an unbalanced budget. Our County, like all local governments, is mandated by state law to balance our budget annually, and that is what we have been doing, year after year. This year is no exception, and despite the challenging circumstances resulting from the global economic downturn we will once again adopt a balanced budget.
The $40 million figure is the projected shortfall in revenues needed to maintain existing County services in the next fiscal year. In order to address the shortfall and balance the budget we are strategically making cuts, shifting and consolidating programs, exacting wage concessions from our employees, and using some designations—whatever it takes to balance the budget. When we do adopt a budget this June, there will be a $0 deficit.
In fact we have already successfully negotiated approximately $10 million dollars in salary and benefit concessions from our employees and directed staff to move forward with the first round of strategic cuts to non essential services.
I want to assure you that the Board is aggressively addressing the realities of these challenging fiscal times. In fact our County’s history of sound fiscal management has earned Santa Barbara County an AA+ bond rating, the highest possible.—Salud Carbajal (First District supervisor)