The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors will hold three budget workshops this week for the fiscal year 2021-22 preliminary budget.
The county’s preliminary operating budget is estimated at $1.34 billion for FY 2021-22, marking the third year in a row that service level reductions are not proposed by any county department.
“This is all positive news, resulting from years of prioritizing key projects, careful planning, managing resources and preparing for the future. Despite the pandemic, property tax and sales tax revenue have remained stable with modest growth and cannabis revenue has remained strong, continuing to exceed estimates,” the staff report reads. “Critical federal and State resources for pandemic relief minimized anticipated budget gaps and reserve uses to cover response efforts, further stabilizing the fiscal outlook. All of these resources have been essential to offset increasing costs related to labor, general liability insurance and critical department needs.”
The preliminary budget includes the board’s policies on program-based budgeting, fiscal stability, identifying and mitigating fiscal risks and maintaining reserves. It also continues to advance the board’s commitment to the “Renew ‘22” initiatives.
The hearings, planned for 9 a.m. today, Wednesday and Friday, will be held a month before the release of the recommended budget and two months before budget hearings. The board will review and discuss departments’ preliminary budgets and special issues, receive public input and provide the county CEO direction on policy issues or specific items for consideration prior to the completion of the final recommended budget.
The workshops will also provide an opportunity to receive information and provide direction on particular policy issues, including four special issue reports: Jail population, diversion and collaborative Justice (today); main jail staffing and facility assessment alternatives (today); capital and deferred maintenance projects and funding sources (Friday); and digital transformation projects (Friday).
The preliminary budget of $1.34 billion is an increase of $150 million over the prior year. County officials cite state and federal resources, which increased by $110 million. The American Rescue Plan is the largest single increase at $43.3 million, half of which will be allocated to the county in FY 2021-22.
Tax revenue and charges for service each increased by $20.8 million. The preliminary budget includes full-time equivalent staffing of 4,330.1, an increase of about 24 over the prior year.
County officials based the budget development on several factors, including: continued revenue growth in property and sales taxes; avoided service level reductions; an increase in labor and liability costs; steady growth in cannabis tax revenue; no changes to the funding recommendation for the Northern Branch Jail; the inclusion of deferred maintenance and capital investments; and data and discovery criminal justice expansion requests being identified for funding set aside.
Some of the key challenges identified include: delayed Census data and redistricting efforts; increasing and changing state and federal mandates and regulations; the need for major bridge construction projects and long-term road funding; deferred maintenance of parks, roads and county facilities; addressing homelessness; and the next steps to enhance access to justice.
County departments have submitted requests for budget expansions totaling $7.2 million in ongoing funding and $7.6 million in one-time funds.
Some of the expansion requests include: $1.15 million in ongoing funding for the Voter’s Choice Act Election Format (Clerk-Recorder-Assessor Department); $2.9 million in on-going funding for road operations (Public Works); and $1.07 million in on-going and $350,000 in one-time funding to expand the Sheriff’s Cannabis Compliance Team.
Other expansion includes body-cameras for the Sheriff’s Office ($443,000); the Floradale Bridge Project (one-time funding of $993,000); and a post-conviction litigation unit for the District Attorney’s office (on-going funding of $259,100); among others.
A total of $5.3 million in maintenance expansion requests are proposed for one-time funding, including $4.3 million for pavement rehabilitation (Public Works); and $1 million for pavement rehabilitation for the Community Services Department.
The public is encouraged to watch the workshops and provide input on ideas being developed by staff to fund vital services.
County Executive Officer Mona Miyasato noted that now, one year after the pandemic began, the preliminary budget for Fiscal Year 2021-22 is built with a positive and stable outlook for the upcoming year.
“As the economy continues to reopen, and with vaccinations for all Californians on the horizon, we see this as a time of recovery and resilience for our community,” Ms. Miyasato said in a statement. “During the last year, we prepared and positioned ourselves to adopt new practices, be responsive and resilient, and rethink what the public needs and expects of us. The pandemic caused an acceleration of Renew ’22, which was initiated in 2017 to fortify the organization against the next economic or natural emergency.
“The County has been relatively fortunate in that our major revenue sources have remained stable over the past year. Nevertheless, we have continued to pursue efficiencies and improvements in the way we do business to help position us to mitigate or avoid the difficult funding choices that were necessary during the last recession. In alignment with Renew ’22 priorities over the past year, departments spearheaded innovative efforts to be more efficient in work processes and serving their customers and clients, with many critical services migrated online during the pandemic.”
The recommended budget is scheduled to be released in May and presented to the Board on June 8 and if needed, on June 10. For information, go to www.CountyofSB.org.
Today’s hearing will open with a budget overview, followed by reviews of the Public Safety Departments, including: Public Defender; District Attorney; Fire; Probation; Sheriff; and Departmental budgets for the Board of Supervisors; County Executive Office; and County Counsel.
Wednesday’s hearings will include the Health and Human Services Department and Community Resources and Public Facilities.
Friday’s hearings will include the Government & Supportive Services and Other Items.
This week’s hearings will be streamed live on the county’s website, YouTube channel and on cable TV Channel 20.
To learn more on how to participate, visit http://countyofsb.org/ceo/cob.sbc.