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County Supervisors Approve Budget, Using One-Time Funding to Save Programs

Board agrees to use former RDA money and reserve funds to keep a Veterans Services position and others considered for elimination

Santa Barbara County officials had considered program cuts expected to have big negative impacts in an effort to close budget shortfalls this year, but the Board of Supervisors on Friday approved one-time funding to save many of the programs.

After a week of deliberations, the supervisors agreed to fund the truancy program positions in the District Attorney’s Office, the Human Services Commission, a Veterans Services position that would close two offices if eliminated, consultants to redesign the Department of Alcohol, Drugs and Mental Health Services, acute beds in the Psychiatric Health Facility, an agriculture biologist, park plumbing positions and a clerk of the board position.

The county will also pitch in $8,000 to the regional environmental impact report for a single-use plastic bag ban by BEACON.

The supervisors supported funding fire stations in Goleta and Orcutt, but asked that the negotiating teams work on getting concession money for that. Most of the other programs restored Friday will be funded with one-time money from the former Redevelopment Agency fund balances or reserve funds.

County Executive Officer Chandra Wallar proposed a budget with $25 million less in spending from the current year and 550 fewer employees than 2007-2008. During the last 10 years, funding for public safety and the law and justice departments has increased to 64 percent of the discretionary budget from 47 percent, which translates to a jump to $127 million from $66 million. The downside to that support is underfunding other community resources and “cutting away some bone,” Wallar said.

The 2013-2014 year is expected to have skyrocketing expenses, especially with retirement benefits. Pensions are expected to be $122.9 million next year, three times the amount in 2003-2004.

Wallar said that even though county employees have negotiated $15 million in concessions for next year, the public safety salaries and benefits are not sustainable. The county is negotiating to eliminate pay increases and lower retirement benefits, but still expects an $18 million to $20 million deficit next year and beyond.

Sheriff Bill Brown asked to fund an additional three deputies, two for the County Jail, because of vacancies and the higher rate of people cycling through the facility. The Board of Supervisors agreed on the positions, but wanted to find nongeneral fund money for those.

“We need to increase the staff level within the facility because of the dangerous situation that exists there,” Brown said.

With Gov. Jerry Brown’s realignment plan, more jail inmates serve their sentences locally instead of being sent to state prison, and the inmates are in for more serious crimes.

When the Board of Supervisors tried to have the District Attorney’s Office find funding within its own department budget for the truancy program supervisor positions, District Attorney Joyce Dudley fiercely objected.

“This was the first the DA Office heard of using criminal prosecution funds to fund a county truancy program,” she said. “It flies in the face of what our mandate is.”

She said all of the money is already spoken for within the department’s budget, and employees have worked vigorously — some without pay or benefits — to save money just to stay afloat.

Board members agreed, and decided to make the item permanently funded in the future.

Click here to read the budget in its entirety.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli 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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