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Local News

County’s Budget Picture Brighter Than Expected

Quarterly report to Board of Supervisors indicates a surplus of $5.9 million

Santa Barbara County’s budget picture may not be as dismal as expected, according to an update given to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

The county’s General Fund continues to show improvement, with an estimated surplus of $5.9 million. That additional money is due in part to unanticipated vehicle license fees and increased bed taxes. The county’s property tax numbers are also on track, and the other part of that savings comes from salary and benefit reductions.

That’s on top of $8.1 million in concessions various county labor groups have given up, according to Tom Alvarez, assistant director of the county’s Finance Department.

Of the county’s 69 departments, most are doing well, but two continue to struggle. Public Health and Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services are facing multimillion-dollar budget deficits.

Public Health is looking at a $2.6 million gap. The department has been transitioning its paper medical records into electronic files, which has had an impact on productivity, Alvarez said. The department is also seeing fewer clients overall, as competition for Medi-Cal patients increases, particularly in North County.

Many health-care providers are serving fewer privately insured patients and are going more aggressively after Medi-Cal patients.

ADMHS is facing as much as a $12.4 million deficit, more than half of which could be related to delayed payments from the state.

That department will be coming back before the supervisors next week to talk about a firmer budget picture on those liabilities. 

Though exactly how much the state will pay the county is unclear, the department is facing a budget gap of about $3.5 million going forward that will have to be addressed.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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