Office cites COVID for funding shifts
After a tumultuous pandemic year, the Santa Barbara County Executive Office provided a budget update to the County Board of Supervisors Tuesday, citing surprising positive and negative projected year-end variances.
Using data from the end of the second quarter, which ended Dec. 31, the Executive Office developed variance projections for the end of the fiscal year 2020-2021. Positive variances indicate costs were lower than initially projected, which leads to a surplus, while negative variances indicate costs were higher than projected, which leads to a shortfall.
In the second-quarter budget report, the County Executive Office projects a negative year-end variance of $718,000 for the Sheriff’s Office, citing COVID-19 testing and overtime funding as the reason for increased costs this fiscal year.
“(The negative variance) is mostly due to increased COVID testing for staff and inmates, as well as overtime costs driven by COVID as staff needs to work overtime to cover for those staff that are out either with infections or that need to quarantine,” Paul Clementi, principal analyst at the County Executive Office, told supervisors Tuesday.
This negative variance is the lowest shortfall in the county’s budget this fiscal year, but County Executive Office officials said cost overages could be covered by CARES Act funding.
In addition, Mr. Clementi reported a projected positive variance of $1.7 million for Probation, which can be attributed to salary savings in position vacancies. The County Executive Office also projects a positive variance of $330,000 for Community Services that was mostly driven by increased demand at campsites due to a lack of other travel options.
Overall, the General Fund, which includes the Sheriff’s Office, Probation office and Community Services, is expected to have a net positive variance of $4.9 million by year-end, Mr. Clementi told Supervisors. Over-budgeted revenues will be transferred to next year’s budget and will be allocated by the Board of Supervisors.
Despite an overall positive variance, Mr. Clementi said the effects of COVID-19 were seen in other areas, such as a decrease in sales tax revenue and reductions of fines filed through the Probation office.
“(The positive variance) is not to say COVID hasn’t had an impact,” Mr. Clementi said. “Sales tax revenues would have ended last year higher and would have continued upward this year in the absence of the pandemic.”
Mr. Clementi also reported three notable variances in the Special Revenue and Other Funds budget category, noting a negative variance of $1.7 million for Resource Recovery and Waste Management, a negative variance of $691,000 for Court Special Services and a positive variance of $1.7 million for Social Services.
Unlike the General Fund, which can end the year in a budget surplus, Special Revenue funds must balance out to zero by year-end, Mr. Clementi said.
“Special revenue funds are required to end the year balanced, so all of the positive and negative variances we see will be balanced to zero by year-end, usually with increases or decreases to their fund balances to get them to zero,” Mr. Clementi said.
During Tuesday’s meeting, supervisors also voted to approve the first reading of an ordinance that will amend a county code to permit Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operations to operate as a food facility. The supervisors will continue a hearing on this ordinance during their March 9 meeting.
In addition, supervisors approved an ordinance that will update and clarify county personnel practices and granted a request for a retirement waiver in the District Attorney’s Office, which will allow for a retired county staffer to return to the office to train a new hire.
Supervisors spent more than an hour hearing considerations for State Water Project contract amendments and voted to approve one amendment with revisions while tabling another amendment for a later date.
At the end of the meeting, Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino paid tribute to the late Congressman Robert Lagomarsino, who died in mid-February.
“He was a tireless and bipartisan service to the County of Santa Barbara as a respected state senator and congressman from 1961 to 1992,” Mr. Lavagnino said. “He authored lasting legislation ranging from marine, wilderness, wild and scenic river protections to returning the harbor’s Naval Reserve building to the city, and most notably, for creating Channel Island National Park.”
The Board of Supervisors will return to session at 9 a.m. March 9.