Santa Barbara County revenues are expected to cover expenses in the 2019-20 fiscal year and, for the first time since 2007-08, individual departments are not anticipating any reduction in services as the Board of Supervisors conducts the first of three budget workshops Monday.

Supervisors will meet at 9 a.m. in the Board Hearing Room on the fourth floor of the County Administration Building at 105 E. Anapamu St. in Santa Barbara, where additional workshops are scheduled for the same time Wednesday and Friday.

The board will review various departments’ preliminary budgets and special issues, hear public comments and provide staff direction on policies and specific items to consider in preparing a final recommended budget.

A report from the County Executive Office says the county’s financial situation is stable, with state, federal, and local revenues sufficient to fund the current level of service and even allow some modest expansion to cover critical needs and mandated programs.

The report credits adequate revenue plus increasing efficiency in operations for the lack of anticipated service reductions.

In addition, budget pressure was relieved on some departments by a net reduction in pension costs as a result of employees shouldering a greater share, the report said.

Property, sales and transient occupancy taxes have mostly recovered from the effects of the Thomas fire and 1/9 Debris Flow, the report said, and funds will be boosted by new tax revenues from cannabis operations, the opening of the Miramar Beach Hotel and full reopening of San Ysidro Ranch.

Cannabis taxes are forecast to reach $5.6 million next year, which will fully support enforcement operations and provide one-time funding for certain items selected by the board, the report said.

Individual departments have indicated a need to expand, and their requests total $9 million in one-time funds and $9.7 million in ongoing costs for a total staffing increase of 34.8 full-time employees.

The requests will be discussed in detail as part of department presentations during the workshops.

Issues to overcome

County departments are also facing a number of potential hurdles.

Department directors indicated recruitment, retention and succession planning as their No. 1 issue, so the preliminary budget provides for two additional staff members in the Human Resources Department to meet the demand.

Legislative and regulatory changes will have an impact on funding, staff workload and service delivery, the report said.

On example that could affect the Public Health Department is the governor’s proposal to redirect $2.1 million in 1991 Realignment funding and his executive order that could increase net pharmaceutical costs by $2.4 million in January 2021.

The county is also facing an increasing need to update its technology infrastructure, security and data storage capabilities, so the preliminary budget allocates $2 million to create a technology replacement fund.

Deferred maintenance of parks, roads and other county facilities is a looming issue for virtually all departments, an estimated total cost of about $400 million to address all the needs.

Supervisors previously established a policy of allocating 18% of unallocated discretionary general revenue growth to a maintenance fund that is expected to reach $6.4 million next fiscal year.

In addition, the preliminary budget allocates another $7.2 million in one-time General Fund resources to address some of the more critical replacement needs.

An effort to divert mentally ill individuals from the criminal justice system has an impact on numerous county departments as well as partner agencies, as do services to services to prevent homelessness and house homeless individuals.

Departmental schedule

Department budgets to be reviewed Monday are for Behavioral Wellness, Public Health, Social Services, Child Support Services, First 5 and the Fire Department.

Wednesday’s workshop will focus on the Sheriff’s Department, including an update on the Northern Branch Jail operating fund, as well as the Public Defender’s Office, Probation Department, District Attorney’s Office and Court Special Services.

Also scheduled for Wednesday’s workshop are Agriculture, Weights & Measures, the Planning & Development Department and Community Services, including two special issues: addressing homelessness and the public library system.

In Friday’s workshop, supervisors will cover budgets for the Clerk-Recorder-Assessor, Treasurer-Tax Collector-Public Administrator, Auditor-Controller, Human Resources and General Services departments.

Also scheduled for Friday’s workshop are the Public Works Department, County Counsel’s Office, County Executive Office, the Board of Supervisors and general county programs and fund balances, winding up with a workshop summary.

Staff plans to release the recommended budget in May, and supervisors will hold hearings June 11 and 13 to adopt the final budget.

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