The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors adopted a Recommended Balanced Budget of $1.079 billion Wednesday for Fiscal Year 2017-2018 which begins in July.
The County saw a growth in revenue, but also saw a 5.3% increase in expenses. The County is facing challenges funding public safety and mental health, and higher costs of providing state and federal programs.
“Even with the challenges facing the County, we are able to continue funding the Board’s priorities. Those priorities include funding the Northern Branch Jail, scheduled to open in 2019, continuing to provide more funding to the Fire District, increased funding for deferred maintenance, and maintaining commitments to employees through our labor agreements. In addition, we are committed to financial plans to pay down unfunded pension liabilities, while incurring very little debt,” said County Executive Officer Mona Miyasato.
In order to balance the budget, supervisors had to vote on which departments would see reductions or funding. The largest reductions affects the Department of Social Services. Those employees provide support for low-income families and senior citizens.
“There’s no easy choices,” said Jeff Frapwell, Assistant Santa Barbara County Executive Officer.
The county wants to stress that services will continue to be provided despite the reduction.
“The department is committed to minimize the service level to the public. So they’ll allocate the remaining staff to make sure they’re meeting all their mandates with respect to timeliness to providing those benefits,” said Frapwell.
Other departments or areas saw increased funding or support like public libraries, public safety and public works.
“We rate our roads on a pavement condition index. That’s a scale from 0 to 100. The county roads are at about 58 so they’re in the fair category,” said Chris Sneddon, Santa Barbara County Public Works’ Deputy Director for Transportation.
Public works receives some state and federal funding for maintenance each year, but also depends on the county. The new adopted budget will give public works close to $2 million on top of $1 million to match funds from FEMA and FHWA to fix storm-damaged roads.
“Roads are critical. Local roads especially. Everybody’s trip begins and ends on a local road,” said Sneddon.
Those roads are:
1) Orcutt-Garey Rd: Embankment failure repair (road is currently closed)
2) Lompoc-Casmalia Rd: Embankment failure repair (road is currently closed)
3) Alisal Road: Culvert and roadway failure repair (road is currently closed)
4) Gibraltar Road 0.25miles south of the summit (road is open, but the shoulder has failed. Note: several other projects on this road will also be repaired, but are in the design phase).
5) Stowell Road east of US101: Roadside drainage ditch reconstruction (road is open but shoulder/drainage is being repaired)
6) San Marcos Road 2.2 miles north of Cathedral Oaks: shoulder failure repair. (road is open but shoulder has failed. Note: other projects on this road will also be repaired, but are in the design phase).
The department will be able to award these projects sometime this month and will move forward with construction this summer.
First District Supervisor Das Williams issued the following statement:
“Today, I voted for my first budget for Santa Barbara County and I believe it is an accurate reflection of our County’s morals. I’m proud of the hard work our staff and my colleagues put into crafting this budget. You can see each Supervisor and the portion of the County they represent in this budget. We have a very diverse County with a wide range of needs. Not all of these needs can be fully met with the budget challenges before us but we worked really hard to make sure they all get met in some way. From expanding funding for our libraries, protecting public safety, increasing investment in infrastructure, and ensuring services exist for our most vulnerable populations; this budget is a true reflection of the morals that bind Santa Barbara County together. Thank you to everyone who spoke or wrote to us throughout this process! We’ll need you to stay engaged as we continue to work on long-term solutions to stabilize our County budget to limit the amount of pain caused by future budgets.”
Click here to view the adopted balanced budget.