Pixel Tracker

Friday, February 22 , 2019, 3:57 am | Fair 46º

 
 
 
 

Santa Barbara County Facing More Tough Budget Decisions

The supervisors consider whether to borrow or cut their way to making up a $16 million deficit

Seeing a budget that is not a pretty picture, Santa Barbara County is facing additional cuts of at least $16 million in light of California’s $60 billion budget deficit.

The news Tuesday stunned county supervisors, who realized that a lack of options leaves them with one question: borrow, or make further cuts?

Impending budget issues include millions of dollars in Department of Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services liabilities, decreases in sales and property tax revenues, and an increase in retirement and health premium costs.

For the 2009-10 fiscal year alone, the $16 million in cuts includes $13 million from the General Fund, $2 million from the county Fire Department and $1 million from various special districts.

First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal on Tuesday said he couldn’t believe that the cuts were for just a single fiscal year, and other board members also seemed shocked at the hole in which the county is stuck.

Salary and benefit costs have increased, leading to the cuts of 129 full-time employees from various departments, including social services, the Sheriff’s Department, public works, probation and more. Furloughs have been widely implemented, as have tax and revenue anticipation notes.

The supervisors moved to approve pursuing state finance securitization, which reinstates cash flow — and the state foots the bill for all cash. States can take local government money only twice every 10 years, and have to pay it back before borrowing again.

“(California’s) credit is so bad, they’re using us to front the loan for them,” county Executive Officer Michael Brown said of Sacramento “borrowing” from local governments.

California is $200 billion in debt. As a comparison, the national debt after World War II was $296 billion, said Jason Stilwell, assistant county executive officer.

Brown said Santa Barbara County is also taking more cuts now in order to come in lower when it mitigates cuts for the next fiscal year, when the state is still expected to be recovering from the recession.

Final legislation for the program has not been passed, so the board Tuesday requested an analysis of borrowing options, as well as a furlough analysis, by the time the issue is continued at its Sept. 15 meeting.

Other solution strategies include early retirement incentives, a move SEIU labor union members in attendance had advocated, and reducing expenditures as much as possible.

Sheriff’s Department personnel attended Tuesday’s meeting to hear about pending cuts. The department has seen its budget reduced by $4 million over the past two years, including funds for 30 positions and 17 percent of its management staff.

Those cuts were made without layoffs, however; jobs were salvaged through reorganization and timely requirements, because the department anticipated the reductions and was able to react in time, Undersheriff Ken Shemwell and Chief Deputy Jim Peterson said.

Shemwell was included in the staff reduction — he retired and returned to duty part time, which saved the department $187,000, according to information presented Tuesday.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Email
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership
×

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >