The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors will hold budget workshops on April 15, 17, and 19, beginning at 9 a.m. each day in the County Administration Building, Fourth Floor Hearing Room, 105 East Anapamu Street. Remote testimony and public comment will be available at the Joseph Centeno Betteravia Government Administration Building at 511 East Lakeside Parkway, Santa Maria.
Budget workshops are held one month before the release of the Recommended Budget and two months before Budget Hearings to provide the Board an opportunity to review and discuss departments’ preliminary budgets and special issues, receive public input on these items, and provide the County Executive Officer direction on policy issues or specific items for consideration prior to completion of the Recommended FY 2019-20 Budget to be released in May.
The public is encouraged to attend the workshops and provide input on ideas being developed by staff to fund vital services. The submitted department budgets and revenue estimates remain subject to change until the tax roll is completed and the State budget is adopted. Final budget decisions will be made on June 11 and 13 when the Board holds budget adoption hearings.
“Adopting a balanced budget in June requires collaboration, coordination and cooperation at every level of our organization,” said Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino, Chair of the Board. “I’m thankful to our hard working County executive and budget teams, and all County departments for prioritizing their initiatives and work plans for the Board’s consideration. I look forward to thoughtful dialogue about how we continue to meet the diverse needs of our communities.”
The workshops also provide an opportunity for the Board to receive information and provide direction to staff, as appropriate, on particular policy issues that affect department budgets. This year, the workshops include five special issue reports:
- Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) Update
- Mental Health Diversion Efforts
- Northern Branch Jail Operating Fund Update
- County Efforts to Address Homelessness
- Library Update
“Fiscal Year 2019-20 will be a milestone year with the culmination of major initiatives that have been in the making for more than 10 years,” said County Executive Officer Mona Miyasato. “The preliminary budget, themed ‘Honoring our Commitments; Transforming our Future,’ marks the first time since FY 2007-08 that service level reductions are not proposed by any County department. This is positive news resulting from years of prioritizing key projects, careful planning, managing resources, preparing for the future, and no new natural disasters in this past year. We are still cautious, however, and cognizant of many unmet community needs.”
The milestones in FY 2019-20 that Miyasato referred to include the following:
- The Northern Branch Jail is slated to finish construction and begin operations
- The property tax transfer to the Fire District will reach its target
- The Tajiguas Resource Recovery Project will be under construction
- Pension cost sharing will result in a net reduction to the County’s pension contribution cost
- Major capital improvement projects have a funding strategy in development
Miyasato added, “We are mid-way through Renew 2022 (Renew ’22), a multi-year initiative to drive greater fiscal sustainability, efficiency, high performance and responsive service to better withstand and recover from uncertain challenges, disasters and threats. By transforming how we do our work, and constantly learning and being open to work differently, employees are equipped to thrive in the present, adapt to tomorrow, and anticipate the future.”More than 70 percent of County revenue is restricted for specified services, leaving less than 30 percent of the budget for discretionary spending on Board priorities. As the County approaches FY 2019-20, its fiscal position is stable, with revenues expected to meet current operational needs and no anticipated service level reductions. State, federal and local revenues are expected to be sufficient to accommodate the current level of service, with some modest service expansions to meet mandates or critical needs next fiscal year.There has been continued, modest growth in local revenues, and a healthy state budget with a surplus. In addition, net pension costs are slightly decreasing next year as a result of pension cost sharing agreements the County negotiated with our labor unions last year to reduce uncertainty of future increases. In November 2018, budget staff presented the Five-Year Forecast report that projected a slight surplus in FY 2019-20 in the General Fund, and impacts of an economic softening beginning in FY 2020-21.
Jeff Frapwell, Assistant County Executive Officer who serves as Budget Director, said,“While we recognize positive indicators, unmet needs continue, such as required investments in the County’s facilities, roads, public safety communications system, and core Countywide technology infrastructure. A future recession may be inevitable, bringing a potential slowdown to local, state and federal revenues. Our five-year forecast included a slowdown in FY 2020-21, with resulting revenue declines. Staff has been cognizant of those estimates in preparing this year’s preliminary budget.”
In an effort to buffer the County from a possible future recession, responsible fiscal practices are followed including the following:
- Ensuring use of one-time funds for one-time (not ongoing) uses
- Allocating cannabis revenue, after enforcement costs, to one-time uses only
- Increasing the Strategic Reserve funding level (projected to be $34.1 million by year-end, assuming FEMA reimbursements are received; the preliminary budget will increase to full funding of $36.4 million)
- Making investments that have ongoing returns in either savings or new revenues, such as departmental management and operational reviews
- Continuing efficiencies and process improvements
- Seeking grant opportunities and better grant coordination
- Partnering with other departments and agencies