Supes Continue to Nail Down ‘Bare Bones’ Budget
Public, However, Convinces County Board to Restore Funding to Specific Programs
The parade of pain in front of the Board of Supervisors continued Wednesday as it heard from more county departments on the devastation of closing a $72 million budget deficit.
Many of the reductions in the proposed budget mean getting rid of programs that have long-term value, said CEO Chandra Wallar, versus keeping services the county is mandated to provide. “The proposed FY ’11-’12 operational budget is absolutely bare bones,” Wallar said.
On Monday the supervisors heard from several law enforcement and public safety departments such as County Fire, the District Attorney and Public Defenders offices, Probation and the Sheriff’s Department, among others.
Wednesday, department heads from Parks, Public Health, Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services (ADMHS), the Auditor-Controller, Human Resources, and General Services told the supervisors how cutting back 15 percent of their General Fund budgets will impact their departments. Other departments who presented Wednesday are similarly scaling back, though to lesser degrees.
In the Department of Social Services, the demand continues to go up for services, while the revenue is going down. A reduction in personnel means an impact to CalWORKs (Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids), CalFresh, and Medi-Cal services provided. There are no discretionary programs or services remaining at all in the department. In ADMHS, psychiatrist positions are on the cutting block, as is funding for CARES (Crisis and Recovery Emergency Services) facilities, where mentally ill go to get treatment.
The public came out in force Wednesday in support of services to the indigent, mentally ill, and poor, and it appears, to an extent, they could come away satisfied with the results.
The supervisors, in preliminary discussions Thursday afternoon, seemed to have taken seriously the comments from the public, providing a list of restorations of programs they were interested in keeping around.
For instance, the supervisors seemed to be in agreement on providing funding for the homeless warming shelters. Those running the shelters came up with $25,000 themselves, and the supervisors would fund the other $25,000 needed.
Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr suggested the same go for the Santa Barbara Film Commission. A majority felt the commission — which brought around $9 million to the local economy last year through film and television productions — was well worth the money spent, and at least a portion of the $50,000 being asked for should be funded.
There also appeared to be consensus on keeping Pro Pay around, a program that helps 300 people with mental illnesses manage their money and pay bills.
The Human Services Commission, which divides up $1.2 million to a variety of nonprofit entities throughout the county, was looking at being completely cut, but had support from all five supervisors, and the board seemed interested in making sure the drug courts were staffed with the right personnel needed to keep them functional.
Each supervisor individually recommended a variety of other restorations he or she would like to see happen, though support was lacking from the other four. Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino, for instance, said his top priority remained keeping the Santa Maria Jail open. Sheriff Bill Brown said that aside from the $1.2 million it would take to keep the jail open full-time, two part-time options at decreased costs were also available. It appeared Lavagnino only had support from the 1st District’s Salud Carbajal on those proposals.
Deals with labor unions continue to be negotiated, and could impact the levels of cuts, but until any agreements are finalized, the cuts are coming.
All that’s left now in okaying the $844 million budget is finalizing the restorations the board has prioritized. To make these restorations, however, the supervisors will have to take money from other places. The board will meet Friday morning at 9 a.m. to figure that out.