The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors held the second budget workshop on Wednesday by discussing the proposed budgets for fiscal year 2021-22 for the health and human services departments as well as the community resources and public facilities departments.

The health and human services departments kicked off the workshop with Child Support Services, First 5 Santa Barbara, the Department of Social Services, the Department of Behavioral Wellness and the Department of Public Health.

Those departments make up 8% of the county’s general fund contributions and 36% of the county’s operating expenditures, according to the County Executive Office.

The Child Support Services Department receives one-third of its funding from the state and two-thirds of its funding from the federal government, said Joni Maiden, director of Child Support Services. In fiscal year 2020-21, the department collected and distributed $32.4 million for child support, the highest amount in the department’s history, according to Maiden.

The department also achieved the highest cost-effectiveness ratio — the amount of child support collections in relation to program expenditures — in the department’s history. Child Support Services collected $3.43 for every dollar spent, which is well above the statewide average of $2.74 for every dollar spent, Maiden said.

The department’s preliminary operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year is about $9 million. The department wants to use some of its money to develop and implement a Parenting Court model to assist child support customers in overcoming barriers to paying child support and increase the number of child support services online.

First 5 Santa Barbara also receives most of its funding from state disbursements and external grants, said Wendy Sims-Moten, executive director of First 5 Santa Barbara. The First 5 program helps lay the foundational building blocks that are “there to create a firm foundation that will carry you through when life shakes you,” Sims-Moten said.

The First 5 program has struggled with unfilled staff positions that contribute to staff capacity issues, Sims-Moten said. The proposed operating budget for fiscal year 2021-22 is about $3.8 million, with 1% of the budget used for one-time ongoing operations.

The department hopes to use some of that funding to invest in anchor agencies that will “be here far past First 5, so people will still have these services,” Sims-Moten said. It also hopes to increase efficiency while reducing costs by moving to an online agenda for commission and committee meetings and communicate to support school readiness by providing messaging and educational opportunities to families, educators and the community.

The department also will distribute a four-year strategic plan for fiscal years 2021-25 as well as engage as an “early responder” to the emerging trends of the county’s youths.

The department will continue to support dual-language learners and their children by distributing books in various languages, Sims-Moten said. The department is investing in seven school districts that represent priority areas based on socioeconomic status, English language learner status and those who have not met academic efficiency, she added.

One of the biggest external measures for the department is to ensure that children enter kindergarten “school ready,” Sims-Moten said.

“There is a lot of research that indicates if children enter school ready for the curriculum, they tend to graduate high school, are not tempted towards risky behavior and tend to have higher goals,” Sims-Moten said.

The Department of Social Services anticipates a significant increase in its client population as various forms of one-time COVID-19-related assistance ends, said Daniel Nielson, department director.

During the course of the pandemic, residents have benefited from rental assistance, CalFresh expansion and one-time payments to CalWorks families.

“We are concerned about a significant increase in our client population heading into the fall when most of these expansions and assistance will expire,” Nielson said.

While the federal and state governments have allowed waivers and flexibilities because of the pandemic, Nielson said he doesn’t know which services will be maintained or reversed.

The department has a preliminary operating budget of nearly $191 million, $9.8 million of which comes from the general fund contribution. The department will be taking up a number of capital projects in the upcoming fiscal year, including increasing storage capacity at the department and county server rooms to provide efficient technology for the department’s IT systems, replace outdated electronic data processing equipment, and continue to replace copiers based on a replacement schedule and end of life, Nielson said.

The department will continue to work to leverage technology to improve efficiency, customer service, and outcomes by expanding text messaging and email capability and reminders, interactive online explainers, self-service online forms and tools, and how-to videos.

It also will implement NEXUS, a cloud system that optimizes the matching of consumers and providers in the in-home supportive services public authority.

The department will continue to redesign and improve the Leadership and Professional Development Program in order to develop and retain high-performing employees, implement the Santa Barbara County Child Abuse Prevention Plan, and collaborate with Behavioral Wellness and the Probation Department to implement a family urgent response system, Nielson said.

The novel coronavirus pandemic brought a lot of challenges for the Department of Behavioral Wellness, but also provided many opportunities to rethink the way things are done, said Alice Gleghorn, director of Behavioral Wellness.

During the past year, the department increased slots in abuse services to 350, including nearly 100 residential treatment beds, Gleghorn said. The department also committed itself to reducing overdose deaths, and saved more than 416 people from overdoses in the past year, she added.

The department also opened the Crestwood Champion Healing Center in Lompoc, which has 34 beds but soon will have more than 80, Gleghorn said.

The department proposed an operating budget of nearly $148.5 million, with about $5.8 million coming from the general fund contribution. In fiscal year 2020-21, the department was awarded $10.6 million in grants from the Mental Health Student Services Act, the Homeless and Navigation Center, coronavirus emergency supplemental funding, and youth opioid response, among others.

During the course of the year, the department will work on developing a Crisis Respite Navigation Center in the South County to provide immediate access to temporary shelter for 30 days to six months, Gleghorn said. The project is estimated to cost around $2.4 million.

The department will focus on making its data more user-friendly and is committed to staff and service excellence, Gleghorn said. It will also create permanent supportive housing units, with a minimum of 50 new long-term units in the core regions of Santa Barbara County.

It will integrate whole-person care in outpatient services by integrating the eight dimensions of wellness in departmental programming practices and developing outreach materials targeted to unserved and underserved groups, according to Chris Ribeiro, deputy director of the department.

The Public Health Department has had “all hands on deck” every single day as it responds to and guides the community through the novel pandemic, Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso said. The pandemic has offered the department the center stage to demonstrate its capacity to protect the health of the community, especially the vulnerable community members, Do-Reynoso said.

During the course of the last fiscal year, the Public Health Department supported at least 600 people in isolation and quarantine, built a network of vaccine providers to ensure access to health equity clinics, led testing and contact tracing efforts, and created public dashboards that shared critical information and data about the pandemic, Do-Reynoso said.

The department also added a pediatric practice at the Santa Maria Health Care Center that expanded the range of services for local, underserved children from birth to adulthood, Do-Reynoso said.

Non-COVID-19 scopes of work in the department have been impacted by the re-direction of staff to COVID-19 efforts, she said, adding that $19.5 million was coded to “project COVID,” Do-Reynoso said. She said she expects to be fully reimbursed by the state and federal governments.

The department is also expecting $5.2 million from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration during the next two years, which may assist with some of the funding gaps, Do-Reynoso said.

The proposed operating budget for fiscal year 2021-22 is $100.8 million, with 4.2% of the budget used for one-time ongoing operations.

The department will implement the Whole Person Care initiative to assist with securing housing for those experiencing or at-risk of homelessness, prioritize COVID-19 vaccination as a primary strategy toward preventing transmission, continue to develop strategies for optimization of new resources for COVID-19 response, and launch the Behavioral Health Integration Program in the health centers with CenCal Health to improve outcomes for pregnant women and those with diabetes, among other initiatives.

Community Resources and Public Facilities

After the health and human services departments wrapped up, the board heard from the community resources and public facilities departments, which include Agriculture, Weights and Measures, the Community Services Department, the Department of Planning and Development and the Public Works Department.

The Agriculture, Weights and Measures Department has a proposed operating budget of $6.8 million for fiscal year 2021-22, with $1.7 million coming from the general fund contribution. The department plans to continue providing virtual pesticide safe handling education and outreach, safely provide essential services, programs, and support to the agricultural industry, commercial business, and public through COVID-19, and continue supporting staff participation in the Innovate SBC Green Belt and Black Belt training, according to Agricultural Commissioner Cathleen Fisher.

The Department of Community Services oversees the county’s 86,000 acres of open space, 24 day-use parks and 85 plus miles of trails, said George Chapjian, community services director.

Campgrounds have seen a significant uptick in visitors during the pandemic, as locals and visitors alike are utilizing open space more, Chapjian said. Between 2015 and 2021, the department increased annual park revenues by $1.9 million, or more than 30%, he added.

The department’s proposed operating budget is nearly $60.5 million, with $12.5 million coming from the general fund contribution.

During the course of the year, the department will make countywide American Disability Act access improvements that will cost $350,000, Chapjian said. It will also redesign and relocate the Cachuma Lake water treatment plant in order to address outdated infrastructure needs and allow for higher reservoir surcharge level, a project that is estimated to cost $275,000.

These projects are funded by state and federal dollars as well as Bureau of Reclamation grants for park maintenance funding, Chapjian said.

During the course of the next fiscal year, the department plans to complete the countywide Recreation Assessment and Master Plan, continue to support COVID-19-impacted community members with emergency rental and small-business assistance programs, collaborate with regional partners to implement the second phase of the Homeless Plan, implement the countywide Arts and Culture Master plan to increase access, equity and sustainability, and draft the 2030 Climate Action Plan.

The Climate Action Plan has an “aggressive goal” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030, Chapjian said.

The Planning and Development Department has a proposed $27.1 million operating budget, with $8,900 used for one-time ongoing operations, said Lisa Plowman, department director.

The department is moving to a digital enterprise model, Accela, and collaborating with partners to increase permitting and licensing processes, Plowman said. During the past year, the department also initiated the strategic plan development, completed the adoption of cannabis land use ordinance amendments, implemented credit card options for permitting fees, and completed 99% of requested inspections within one day, Plowman said.

For the upcoming year, the department plans to complete a department strategic plan and standards development, transition to a digital service delivery model by providing online permitting services, and continue the cannabis permit review and compliance monitoring for approved projects, Plowman said.

In terms of long-range planning, the department will initiate multiyear projects, including a housing element update, an environmental justice element, a circulation element update, a safety element update and a utility-grade solar ordinance amendment, among others.

The department is asking for an expansion request of $74,000 for an enterprise leader within the administrative division, Plowman said. That position will fill a gap within the department’s current structure and will oversee budget and fiscal matters, IT, human resources, and training, Plowman said.

“It’s very important that we have the support and structure to carry out the ambitious goals that we’ve got,” she said.

The Department of Public Works has a proposed operating budget of $147.7 million, with $3.2 million from the general fund contribution and $2.9 million use of one-time funding for ongoing operations.

About $38 million of the budget will be used for roads capital projects, said Scott McGolpin, department director. The department has a series of capital projects for the upcoming fiscal year, including the Floradale Avenue Bridge Construction in Lompoc, using $6.7 million of fiscal year 2021-22’s budget, the Foothill Road Bridge Construction in New Cuyama, using $5 million of upcoming fiscal year budget, and the Randall Road Debris Basin in Montecito, which will use $11.5 million of the fiscal year 2021-22 budget.

The department is requesting an additional $8,225,200 for the Floradale Bridge Project, structural deficits in road operations and maintenance expansion requests, McGolpin said. The Floradale Bridge Project expansion request is for a local match that is required for the Federal Highway Bridge Program revenue, he added.

The next budget workshop is scheduled for Friday and will include policy and executive group budgets, including the Board of Supervisors, the County Executive Officer and the County Counsel. It also will discuss the general government and support services, including the Treasurer-Tax Collector, Auditor-Controller, Human Resources and others.

Friday’s workshop also will include special reports on capital and deferred maintenance projects and funding sources as well as digital transformation projects.

Noozhawk staff writer Jade Martinez-Pogue can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Jade Martinez-Pogue

Jade Martinez-Pogue, Noozhawk Staff Writer

Noozhawk staff writer Jade Martinez-Pogue can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.