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Saturday, February 16 , 2019, 9:00 pm | A Few Clouds 51º


Santa Barbara County Supervisors Conclude Preliminary Budget Workshops

Officials ask for more metrics in the future to better determine funding

Preliminary Santa Barbara County budget workshops finished up Friday, with the Board of Supervisors providing some general direction to staff, especially regarding deferred maintenance, mental health and jail services.

In the last of the three-day workshop series to prepare for budget hearings on June 8, 10 and 12, officials agreed that more metrics related to department effectiveness could help with final decisions for the 2015-16 budget, which will initially be released in May.

The supervisors want to try to backfill deferred-maintenance costs, and help plug a $2.5 million hole in the Department of Alcohol, Drug & Mental Health Services budget, although exact plans for both actions weren’t immediately worked out.

They also unanimously voted to focus deferred road-maintenance funding from the Measure A transportation measure more on road lanes (75 percent) compared to population (25 percent), which spread dollars more evenly across the five supervisorial districts.

Almost every county department asked for more money to add positions or for capital projects in the upcoming fiscal year, but the supervisors have just $4 million in unallocated funding to work with.

Losing $2.9 million in gas tax from the state and facing rising costs elsewhere doesn’t help the final county budget picture.

Friday’s session introduced administrative department budgets, with much of the discussion centered on Public Works and General Services.

Public Works asked for $3.1 million from the general fund, presenting capital plans that included improving wastewater diversion and replacing equipment and surfaces, mostly related to roads, said department director Scott McGolpin.

The department operates a $108.3 million budget with nearly 283 employees, and oversee $21.7 million in capital roads projects and $21.8 million in major capital projects, he said, noting the budget was expected to break even.

Fourth District Supervisor Peter Adam chimed in to ask whether Public Works could generate more data on the number of maintenance calls to repair traffic signals and other road complaints, to give residents an idea of department challenges.

Matthew Pontes, director of the Department of General Services, requested $6.1 million more for the next fiscal year, mainly to maintain county facilities.

Pontes outlined major capital projects, the highlight of which was the new North County Jail and Sheriff’s Transition and Reentry (STAR) complex, a new $5 million Cuyama fire station and pool replacement, and communications infrastructure.

“Everyone is truly dedicated to this project’s success,” Pontes said of the jail project, adding that staff had been working day and night to be done so it can go to bid April 21.

Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf asked legal counsel to come back with alternatives that might allow the supervisors to modify or reduce the STAR complex.

Her hesitation toward building the new multi-million facility echoed board sentiment from Monday’s public safety workshop, during which officials called for a more concrete jail-funding plan.

General Services also wanted to add a full-time IT network security employee for $149,000 to combat cyber threats — a request the supervisors seemed to favor.

The county Clerk-Recorder-Accessor requested $333,430 to add four full-time employees: one appraiser, one mapping/GIS analyst and two administrative office professionals.

Harry Hagen, county Treasurer-Tax Collector, outlined a $500,000 capital project, the department’s final payment for a new property tax system.

General County Programs didn’t request more funding, but several outside agencies did.

Those expansions included $50,000 for TV Santa Barbara, $10,000 for the city of Santa Barbara, $10,000 for the Committee for Social Justice, $10,000 for New Beginnings Counseling Center and $9,000 for the UC Cooperative Extension.

CEO Mona Miyasato provided the supervisors with initial recommendations, saying she would offer a full budget vetting in May.

Expansion requests totaled $12.6 million in ongoing costs for 110 FTEs, which was “much more than we have funding for,” she said, noting the county could gain about $675,000 more in property tax revenue.

She suggested restoring homeless shelter funding from one-time to ongoing — affecting the Bridge House, Santa Maria Good Samaritan Shelter and Casa Esperanza — and allowing the County Public Health Department to help fund ADMHS.

The supervisors agreed funding libraries, especially ones in unincorporated areas, should be a priority, along with deferred maintenance, restoring homeless shelters and mental health.

They thanked county staff for their diligence.

The three days may have been exhausting, Wolf said, “but we’ve learned a lot about our different departments.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff 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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