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Tuesday, December 18 , 2018, 5:46 am | Fair 44º


Santa Barbara County Facing $12 Million Deficit Next Year, Expected to Hit $55 Million In 5 Years

Supevisors also vote to put two more members on Psychiatric Health Facility's governing board

Santa Barbara County is facing a projected $12.2-million spending shortfall for the next fiscal year, and that number is expected to balloon to more than $55 million by the 2022-23 budget year.

The Board of Supervisors were given the grim news Tuesday during a five-year financial forecast delivered by county Budget Director Jeff Frapwell, who said the numbers were assumptions staff would be refining over time.

He also told the supervisors the county can no longer simply “nibble around the edges” of its budget gaps, but has to change the way it does business, a challenge given to all departments. 

The county has instituted a five-year transformation plan, Renew 22, which is a countywide initiative to position the organization as one that delivers outstanding services even in difficult financial times.

“Let's not be the victim of our circumstances,”​ Frapwell said.

Scroll down to read the presentation from Tuesday's meeting. 

The budget projections were developed using numbers submitted by the county's department heads based on status quo operations, with no increased expenses.

“Things will continue to change on a daily, weekly basis,”​ Frapwell told the supervisors about the financial forecast he called “a snapshot in time to see where we are today and what we know.”

One of the main drivers of the budget is salary costs, which are expected to increase by 3 percent in the coming years. 

Salaries and benefits make up 50 percent of the county's $250 million general fund budget, he said.

Retirement costs are also projected to increase by an average 6 percent over the next five years, according to Frapwell's report.

Two-thirds of the projected budget shortfalls are from three departments: the Sheriff's Department, Probation and General Services.

The supervisors were also told the county's special revenue fund budgets are facing a projected $11.1 million shortfall for the 2018-19 fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2018. That number is expected to grow to $52.8 million by 2022-23.

Departments and programs in that budget category include mental health services, child support services, and drug and alcohol programs. 

“It hasn't been your board's historical practice to backfill these,”​ Frapwell said. “This is the challenge that departments have — to fill these gaps.”

The county's largest source of discretionary revenue is property tax, which is expected to increase by 4.5 percent, according to Frapwell, who also said the county is projected to see a 3-percent increase for its sales and transient occupancy tax revenues next year. 

Supervisors add two positions to Psychiatric Health Facility governing board

With a unanimous vote, the supervisors on Tuesday also approved adding two members to the county's Psychiatric Health Facility governing board to include a public guardian representative and a public health doctor. 

The PHF is a 16-bed, locked, inpatient psychiatric facility in Santa Barbara providing 24-hour acute care to individuals with severe mental illness who require psychiatric hospitalization.

The PHF board previously had five members and supervisors' action raised it to seven.

Board members have been responsible for setting up a governance structure to ensure compliance with state and federal regulations.

Established last September by the supervisors, the board has met 18 times.

Santa Barbara County Behavioral Wellness Director Dr. Alice Gleghorn told the supervisors the institution of a governing board has been a major improvement for the PHF.

“(The governing board) has significantly increased our efficiency,”​ Gleghorn said.

She also said since the board formed, 75 policies have been developed or amended for the facility. There have also been physical changes implemented, including a new laundry station and exercise equipment.

North County Supervisor Steve Lavagnino, who sits on the governing board, said it may seem that developing and amending the policies wasn't a big deal.

Part of the problem at the facility in the past, however, was the fact there were “a lot of policies that nobody knew too much about,” he said.

“This is a huge change that happened at the PHF,”​ Lavagnino said.

Noozhawk contributing writer April Charlton can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

Santa Barbara County Fiscal Year 2018-23 Forecast 

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