After losing $4.4 million during fiscal year 2019-20, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department is “trending on budget” for the current fiscal year.
That was the message delivered to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors Tuesday, as they unanimously adopted the FY 2019-20 budget. Undersheriff Solomon Linver did caution, however, that this could change when the Northern Branch Jail activates later this fiscal year.
“We’re trending on budget, but then we’re going to see what North Branch Jail does to us,” he said.
The $4.4 million loss, the largest among the county’s departments, is just 2.75% of the Sheriff’s Office $160 million budget. The loss represents a significant increase over last year’s $1.1 million deficit, which represented just 0.7% of the Sheriff’s Office $149.7 million budget.
According to the report, the FY 2019-20 deficit was mainly caused by spending on overtime that wasn’t completely offset by salary savings from vacant positions. The Sheriff’s Office dedicated 35,000 hours, the equivalent of 17 full-time employees, to training officers. While a new recruit undergoes academy and on-the-job training, the recruit receives full pay and benefits but is not yet a “working asset” that can work free of supervision. On top of these costs, the 35,000 hours of training necessitated a backfill of staff, demanding overtime.
The supervisors unanimously voted to file a report on the fiscal status of fiscal year 2019-2020 during its Tuesday meeting.
According to the report, the county ended FY 2019-20 with a net positive of $3.8 million in its general fund, less than the $8 million positive variance that ended the previous year.
Overall, general revenues ended the year $6.5 million above budget, though this revenue was offset by deficits in certain departments. This variance is 2.3% on a $248.3 million adjusted budget, which is largely due to higher than budgeted current year secured property taxes, prior year unsecured property taxes, RDA distributions, interest income, and payment in lieu of taxes.
General fund departments that ended the fiscal year with positive net variances due to salary savings or higher than anticipated revenues include: Probation, $815,000; Auditor-Controller, $700,000; and Treasurer-Tax Collector, with $607,000.
While most departments ended balanced or slightly positive, some departments ended with negative variances. These include: Planning and Development, which lost $229,000, Community Services-Parks,$398,000, and the Sheriff’s Office, $4.4 million.
The county’s special revenue funds are required to end the fiscal year balanced, but a couple departments had to address revenue shortfalls with their own fund balances.
To cover revenue loss and expenditure impacts caused by COVID-19, Public Health had to use $2 million in fund balance and Behavioral Wellness had to use $6 million. Also, the general fund provided Courts Special Services with an additional $500,000 due to declining revenues and increased costs for indigent defense.
In other business, the board accepted a COVID-19 update that included Santa Barbara County’s standing in the State of California’s new color-coded, four-tiered protocol for slowing the spread of COVID-19.
According to Public Health Department director Van Do-Reynoso, over the past two weeks, Santa Barbara County has experienced a decrease in COVID-19 cases in Santa Maria, the city of Santa Barbara, Lompoc, Goleta, North County unincorporated areas, Montecito and Carpinteria, Orcutt, and Isla Vista. Despite the decrease in coronavirus cases in these localities, Santa Barbara County is at the highest tier, purple tier 1, describing “widespread transmission.”
A county’s placement among the four tiers, widespread, substantial, moderate, and minimal transmission, is determined by the number of new cases per 100,000 people per day and its testing positivity rate. Should Santa Barbara County’s daily cases fall to between four and seven per 100,000 people and its testing positivity rate fall between 5 and 8%, the metrics that would place a county in the red “substantial transmission” tier 2, it can only move onto tier 2 after staying in tier 1 for three weeks.