It’s still early in the budget game, but based on a preliminary first-quarter report, it appears Santa Barbara County will end the 2020-21 fiscal year $3.1 million in the black, despite a $1.2 million deficit projected for the Sheriff’s Office and cannabis revenues coming in lower than expected.

The Board of Supervisors had no questions or comments and no one from the public spoke regarding the report, which supervisors voted 5-0 to receive and file at the conclusion of the Nov. 16 meeting.

Three months of actual revenues and expenditures plus nine months of projected figures were compared to the adjusted approved budget to reach the expected year-end balance, said Paul Clementi, the county’s budget division chief.

Only the department deficits and revenues that vary $300,000 or more and special revenue funds that vary $500,000 or more from the approved budget have to be reported, and all but three were far below that threshold, according to the report.

Clementi said the $1.2 million Sheriff’s Office deficit will be offset largely by the Probation Department, which has a projected $1.8 million surplus, and the General Fund revenues that are $1.6 million more than budgeted.

He noted the $1.2 million is just 0.6% of the total Sheriff’s Office budget, and almost half that is the result of money withheld by the state.

“About $560,000 [of that deficit] is a loss due to the state recouping what they say is ‘overpayment’ made during the ’20-21 fiscal year for state inmates that stayed at County Jail during COVID,” Clementi said.

“The state was paying a daily rate for inmates that couldn’t be transferred to State Prison, and now they’re saying the payments were overpayment,” he said.

Clementi said the staff is discussing the issue with the state but at this point is assuming that money is lost.

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Another $230,000 of the overrun is attributed to the passage of AB 1869, which stopped the Sheriff’s Office charging convicted individuals for alternative sentencing, although he said the Probation Department lost even more without specifying how much.

The rest of the deficit he attributed to the Sheriff’s Office paying $1.2 million in overtime, although $190,000 of that was for rendering mutual aid, some of which may be reimbursed, and $200,000 that was spent training new employees.

Clementi said the bulk of Probation Department’s $1.8 million variance, which is 2.4% of its total budget, is due to $874,000 in salary savings from vacant positions and $344,000 in realignment revenues for juvenile programs.

Fewer services provided by community-based organizations accounted for additional savings of $498,000.

General Fund revenues are projected to be $1.6 million more than anticipated due to increases of $149,000 in property taxes, $867,000 in sales and use taxes and $2.4 million in property transfer taxes over what was budgeted for those sources.

However, those were offset by reductions of $1.2 million in interest income and $3 million in cannabis revenues from the budgeted amounts.

Clementi said the cannabis report coming in December will provide more details on why that revenue is expected to fall short, but the anticipated decrease will be neutralized by $3 million in cannabis revenue carried over from last fiscal year.

He also said the drop in cannabis revenue won’t affect the $4.7 million in cannabis money being held in reserve nor the specific programs supported by cannabis funds allocated by the board.

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