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Local News

Santa Barbara County Supervisors Face Decisions on Budget, Maintenance Backlog

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors will make final decisions on the upcoming year's budget this week, and on Monday received an all-day briefing on the county's financials.

Though the financial picture looks much better than it did at the start of the recession, some large issues still loom, such as how to fund the county's backlog of maintenance projects that amounts to almost $200 million.

Because the county conducted more in-depth budget workshops in April, Monday's session was more of an overview of the county's budget situation and gave the Board of Supervisors the chance to ask questions of department heads.

The supervisors will be deliberating and making final decision on the 2014-15 budget on Wednesday.

The county is expecting $905 million in operating revenues for next year and about $903 million in expenditures, according to County Executive Officer Mona Miyasato.

The county employs 4,119 full-time staff positions, an increase in more than 100 positions from last year, due primarily to increases in state and federal funding in Social Services and Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services budgets.

ADMHS recently was awarded $11 million to expand its crisis services, and both ADMHS and Social Services most likely will see an increase of funding because of the Affordable Care Act.

The service-level reductions of $1.7 million are smaller this year than in previous years.

This year's budget also includes costs for the Northern Branch Jail, which was set at $17.3 million in annual operating costs. Those costs could be $1.8 million more because of accelerated staff hiring.

The county's general fund is budgeted at $320.9 million, which is also an increase, but Miyasato said that the county must keep controlling expenditures as well as looking for ways to increase revenues.

One area of contention that supervisors have yet to decide is how exactly to tackle the county's growing backlog of roads, bridges, parks and other assets that need to be maintained.

The county has a backlog of maintenance of about $198 million — $114 million in roads, $45 million in parks and $38.5 million in buildings. 

About $12 million a year is needed to keep roads at the status quo, and though some money has been allocated, it's still about $6 million short of what's needed to keep roads at current service levels.

Supervisors must decide how much money they will allot and how quickly to close the county's backlog of maintenance projects.

Wednesday's budget hearings are scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. at the County Administration Building's Board Hearing Room on the fourth floor of 105 E. Anapamu St. in Santa Barbara.

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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