Santa Barbara County is facing 10 major fiscal issues that will have an impact on the 2018-19 and 2019-20 budgets and likely lead to reduced services in all departments, according to a report delivered to the board Tuesday.
“I fully expect, based on the revenues we’re facing, we’re looking at major cuts in service,” Jeff Frapwell, assistant county executive officer, told the board during his presentation on the Fiscal Issues Report & Budget Development Policies.
Frapwell outlined the 10 biggest issues the Board of Supervisors will have to deal with as it makes tough budget decisions for the next two fiscal years.
Leading off the list is deferred maintenance, which he said will have a $5.4 million impact on the 2018-19 budget and a $2.6 million impact on the 2019-20 budget.
“We know we have an unmet need out there,” Frapwell said. “We know it needs to be at the forefront as we develop the budget.”
He said the estimated backlog of deferred maintenance projects countywide is estimated at $400 million, with $284 million of that in Public Works’ pavement, bridges, draining projects, hardscape and traffic devices.
Another $73 million of that lies in the General Services budget for county buildings, systems and facility infrastructure, and $43 million in County Parks for infrastructure, systems and parks amenities.
Frapwell said the 18 percent of unallocated discretionary revenue that has been committed to deferred maintenance will be allocated to departments based on existing needs and priorities.
He also said the board may be asked to issue certificates of participation — essentially bonds — to reduce the growing backlog, and the staff is also looking into federal and state programs.
Second on the list is the county’s mandated share of In-Home Supportive Services, which was renegotiated for 2017-18 and will have a cost inflator applied starting in 2018-19, making the county’s estimated share increase by $400,000 to $700,000 in 2018-19 and $400,000 to $800,000 in 2019-20.
“It’s really kind of a moving target for us with the state,” Frapwell said.
Frapwell noted supervisors set aside $625,000 in the 2017-18 fiscal year budget to buffer against the higher costs, so when that’s taken into account the 2018-19 fiscal year impact could be zero to $75,000.
No. 3 is replacement of the in-car video and computer systems for the Sheriff’s Office, which has a need for 67 units at $15,000 each for a total of $1 million the first year and ongoing costs of $125,000 a year after that.
The fourth on the list is the inpatient system of care revenue loss at the Psychiatric Health Facility and cost increases for Institute for Mental Disease services, which will have an estimated $4 million impact in the 2018-19 year but zero for the 2019-20 year with a $1 million set-aside.
“We should be doing something drastic here,” 1st District Supervisor Das Williams said.
“The state accepts our emergency situation now,” he said, referring to the state allowing the county to exceed capacity at the Psychiatric Health Facility because the other facility the county uses in Ventura County fell victim to the Thomas fire. “But when the fire’s out, that Vista del Mar will still be burned down.”
The fifth item on Frapwell’s list is replacement of the public safety communications system.
“This is the real elephant in the room,” Frapwell said. “This is the one that really scares me.”
The impact to the 2018-19 budget will be zero, as that will represent the planning stage, but 2019-20 will mark the start of “tens of millions of dollars” in cost phased over several years. Currently, $4 million is set aside for replacement of the aging system.
“This is a real need we’re going to have to address,” he said.
No. 6 is replacement of the public safety portable radios, which represents an ongoing cost of $420,000 for five years, starting in 2018-19.
Frapwell said the plan is to buy 18 new radios for the Probation Department, and move the old ones to the Sheriff’s Office, then start buying new ones for the sheriff’s deputies.
Solar projects are seventh on the list, with four projects proposed based on the success of a solar array at the Calle Real campus.
The impact on the 2018-19 budget wold be a one-time cost of $4 million, the ongoing costs of $2 million a year starting in 2019-20.
South County Main Jail facilities, including deferred maintenance and other operational costs, are at No. 8. The impact on the 2018-19 budget will be zero. Work expected to begin in 2019-20 as soon as the Northern Branch Jail opens will make a $5 million impact on that year’s budget that will be ongoing for five years.
The Vintage Ranch Bridge project, which includes a hiking trail through the open space area, at No. 9 will have a one-time impact of $400,000 to $500,000 on the 2018-19 budget, but zero the following year.
Rounding out the list in the 10th spot is the Waller Park irrigation well replacement, which will have a one-time $750,000 impact on the 2018-19 budget.
Frapwell said the county is in discussions with the Laguna Sanitation District to bring recycled water into the park at an annual cost of $226,000, but it’s not certain enough water could be brought in for the entire park. The new well would help offset costs regardless of the Laguna project.
Frapwell said there are other potential issues on the horizon, including changes to the Affordable Care Act, the Northern Branch Jail funding plan and structural deficits in some departments, particularly those dependent on state and federal funding.