The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors will hold a budget workshop beginning at 9 a.m. April 13.
The workshops, which provide an opportunity for the board to receive information and provide direction on particular policy issues that affect department budgets, will be condensed to one day this year due to the “uncertainty of the pandemic, and incomplete information about the duration or its impact at this point,” according to county officials.
This year’s workshops will include special issue reports on funding for libraries and an update on the Long Range Planning Work Program. Workshops may be extended, if necessary, to April 15, officials said.
Members of the public are encouraged to watch the workshops and provide input. The submitted budgets and revenue estimates remain subject to change until the tax roll is complete and the state budget is adopted. Final budget decisions will be made in June.
“As the County approaches FY 2020-21, our fiscal position is uncertain, with revenues previously expected to meet current operational needs now looking increasingly at risk of declines,” said County Executive Officer Mona Miyasato. “The County faces potential and unpredictable impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the local economy. We don’t know how long this will last and the objective is to maintain current service levels to the extent possible, while continuing to invest in priority projects and initiatives.”
The preliminary budget is built within the primary objectives of continuing essential services needed for response and recovery, as well as maintaining status quo budgets for departments to the extent possible. Officials are expected to refrain from granting any budget expansions at this time.
Jeff Frapwell, assistant county executive officer who serves as budget director, said the board is “compelled to take a more cautioned approach to budget approvals” due to the pandemic.
“The essence of the County’s transformation program, Renew 2022, has been to fortify the organization and be resilient and prepared for the next economic or natural emergency. That event is occurring now in this unprecedented time,” Ms. Miyasato said. “As we continue to address this pandemic, which will impact our revenues, our expenditures, and the health and well-being of our communities, we do not know what the full impact will be, but we do know our resilience will be tested.
“After the emergency, we must continue, and invariably will be forced, to transform how we do our work, constantly learning to work differently. County employees are equipped to thrive in the present, adapt to tomorrow, and anticipate the future. When we have the benefit of looking back on the COVID-19 pandemic, we are optimistic that we will be proud of our collective strength and collaborations with our community partners to move all of us forward during an extremely difficult and uncertain time.”
In an effort to buffer its finances from COVID-19 impacts, as well as future recession, the county is conducting the following fiscal practices:
- Ensuring the use of one-time funds for one-time uses.
- Allocating cannabis revenue, after enforcement costs, to one-time uses only or to support core services should a revenue shortfall occur.
- Setting aside funding for initiatives that have been identified as highest priority, including technology enhancements and capital needs.
- And continuing efficiencies and process improvements and training employees to be able to identify and implement opportunities for improved operations and innovative solutions.
The recommended budget is scheduled to be released in May and presented to the board on June 11 and 13. For more information, visit www.countyofsb.org.